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Hon'ble Sri K. SANTANAM, 



pL&y> QubTifltSp Qumrrppsv QsuskaQui ; 
jifiptjbirm n@oesnx>Q\ussf\so QajeifljBULLQL-nir 

— uijfiiurir 


By V. V. S. Aiyar 

Other Works 


THE TIBUKKURAL — Complete Translation 

(Out of print) 








(A book on Military Strategy — Confiscated by the late 
British Government in India) 


Translation of Ralph Waldo Emerson's Self-reliance. 
2nd Edition by Sarvodaya Pirasuralayam, Virapandi, Tiruppur (1950). 

GURU GOVIND SINGH— A Biographical sketch. 
2nd Edition (1950) by Navayuga Pirasuralayam, Karaikudi. 


Translation in English verse of the anclept Tamil Classic. 
(Unpublished Manuscript lost in 1942 disturbances.) 

Published in 1950 
First Edition 

Rsjtf (Postage Re 1 extra) 

In India <& Ceylon. 

$0.50 or sh 24 (Postage inclusive) 


All Rights Reserved by the Publishers 






There is a Tamil proverb in which one mendicant asks 
another, " Say brother, are you a mendicant by ancestry 
or are you a mendicant by famine ? " We are publishing 
this book due to a famine of publishers of whom there 
are too many more worthy than us to publish it. If the 
gods had been kind, this work would probably have been 
published a quarter of a century ago by reputed English 
publishers under the sponsorship of the great Irish poet, 
George Russell, more widely known as ' A.E.' 

We had intended to tell in this note the story of how we 
came to do this work, and of the many difficulties and 
obstacles we had to surmount, chief among which is our 
colossal ignorance of the job and of everything else besides. 
But we are now so nearly bursting with pride in the 
successful achievement of our labours that, if we let 
ourselves go, the four-hundred odd pages of this book will 
not be sufficient for the epic of our travails. 

So we content ourselves with expressing our deep sense 
of gratitude to all those who have helped us spontaneously 
and ungrudgingly in publishing this book. They are so 
many, and however small or big their help has been, the 
love behind the aid of each of them yields place to none 
else. We mention by name only a few. 

To Aiyar's son, Dr. V. V. S. Krishnamurthy who honoured 
us with his faith and entrusted the manuscripts to us and 
stood by us with every possible help, we cannot find 
adequate words to express our gratitude. 

We are indebted to the Editors of the Dinamani, 
the Dinamani Kadir, the Hindu, the Indian Express. 
the Hindustan Times, the Atma Jyoti of Ceylon and other 
publications for the publicity they so generously gave to 
our projected publication. We thank them most sincerely 
for this invaluable help. We owe the success of our effort 
to the tireless band of friends and associations in Delhi and 

viii publishers' note 

other places who took upon themselves the onerous task 
of canvassing subscribers. We can never cease to be 
grateful to them. We should next thank all our subscribers 
who so trustingly paid the price several months in advance 
and made it possible to publish this book. We thank them 
for their faith in us. 

We take great pleasure in being able to print a 
Foreword from Hon'ble Sri K. Santanam, Minister of State. 
Transport and Railways, India. He is a close friend of 
Aiyar and his family and he has followed with keen interest 
the progress of the publication of this book. We sincerely 
thank him for taking the trouble to write this Foreword in 
the midst of his pressing duties. 

We are indebted to the Director of the HIND, an 
excellent quarterly published in France and devoted purely 
to the culture and literature of Bharata Kanda, for per- 
mission to quote certain extracts from an article by 
Monsieur S. KICHENASSAMY (Sakti sei) on Le 
Ramayana de Kamban, in the second issue of the first 
volume (1949). The HIND is published from 41, Rue de 
la Bienfaisance, Paris 8e, price 1,000 francs a year — 250 
francs per issue. We take this occasion to tender our 
thanks also to the few authors and publishers from whose 
works we have taken small extracts to adorn our foot-notes. 
Being very brief extracts we have not sought specific 
permission, which omission, we sincerely hope, these 
large-hearted friends will overlook in the cause of 
knowledge. Suitable acknowledgements have been made 
at the proper places. 

We have, throughout the book, linked the translations 
in English verse with the original poems and have given 
references to Book, Canto, and stanza. These references 
follow the edition of the Kamba Ramayanam in Tamil 
(with elaborate commentaries) in seven volumes by Sri 
V. M. Gopalakrishnamachariar of 17, T.P. Koil Street, 
Triplicane, Madras. The Roman figures refer to the 
Kandams or Books, the small Roman figures to the Padalams 
or Cantos, and the Arabic numbers to the stanzas. 

publishers' note ix 

Quotations by Aiyar from the Valmiki Ramayana have 
been printed in italics. Except in one or two places, Aiyar 
has taken these quotations from Griffith. 

The foot-notes, except in the case of reference numbers 
to the original poems in Kamba Ramayanam are by the 
author in nearly all cases. We have, however, felt called 
upon to add a few. As these are, in intention and form, 
completely in accord with Aiyar's plan, who, if he had lived 
to publish this work, would have added these notes, we have 
not distinguished them by any special sign. There are none 
by us, we hasten to assure the readers, which expresses any 
opinion or criticism. Ours are innocuous ones like meaning 
of a phrase or word, chiefly for the benefit of the foreign 
reader. In a few cases, however, where the notes should 
be so marked on account of their import, we have shown 
the letter ' P ' within brackets. 

Aiyar had intended to crown his work with the 
character-study of Sita and had fittingly reserved it to the 
last. Cruel fate, however, stretched its talons and tragically 
snatched him away from this world before he could sing 
Sita's virtues. Though very reluctant to make any additions 
to Aiyar's work, we felt a certain infelicity in letting 
the work appear without Sita and hence a character-sketch 
has been added to this book. It is written by a member of 
the Delhi Tamil Sangam. 

Prof. A. Srinivasa Raghavan who had very kindly agreed 
to write this chapter, and, in fact, to edit the rest of the 
book as well, has been prevented from doing so by pressure 
of work, want of leisure and ill health. We know how 
much our subscribers will be disappointed. We tender our 
sincere regrets to them. 

It has been our endeavour — we had almost said, an 
obsession with us — to make this work free of that common 
eye-sore of publications in this country — the list of Errata. 
Still, some errors have escaped our vigilant eyes ; we offer 
no excuses but beg to be forgiven. We absolve our printers 
from all responsibility for any of these. 

X publishers' note 

Though the book itself is a testimony to the excellent 
work of our printers, The Jupiter Press Ltd., of Madras, it 
cannot speak of two of their outstanding claims on our 
gratitude. Their prompt execution of the work at every 
stage and their close co-operation only has made it possible 
to bring out this book so quickly. As whatever we 
may say will appear a hyperbole — we feel so enthusiastic 
about this trait of our printers — we pass on to their next 
virtue — the almost unique excellence of their proofs, first 
or second. Sometimes, we had uncharitably wished that 
they were not so perfect, as such perfection made our guilt 
in making later corrections stand forth very glaringly. 

We acknowledge with pleasure and gratitude the 
invaluable help of the small band of friends who typed the 
manuscripts, sometimes again and again, ungrudgingly, and 
of those who checked them and the press proofs so carefully. 
Any excellence in the get-up of this work is due to their 
tireless help. x -'■■*% 

The cover design is by Sri R. Mahadevan who has adopted 
the Sangam as the special beneficiary of his selfless service. 

We cannot refrain from mentioning with gratitude 
Mr. S. Ramaswamy who has looked after our work at 
Madras. Without him, we do not know into what snares 
and pitfalls we would have fallen. 

Our acknowledgements to those to whom we are indebted 
in the Introductory Essay on Tamil and the chapter on Sita 
are made in the respective chapters. 

We thank God who has deigned to use us as His 
instrument for this service to Kamban and Tamil, and we 
tender this work with humility at His lotus feet as our 
humble offering. 

30th June, 1950. THE DELHI TAMIL SANGAM. 



KAPPU .. . . .. .. .. xiv 

Foreword by Hon'ble Sri K. SANTANAM . . xv 

Tamil — The Language and Its Literature . . xvii 
(A Brief Survey) 

Kamban — A Short Note . . . . . . lxv 

V. V. S. Aiyar— A Biographical Sketch . . lxvi 

Gandhiji on Aiyar . . . . . . . . lxxii 

Kamba Ramayanam — A Study — 

I Introductory Remarks . . . . 1 

II The Story of the Ramayana . . 5 

III In Medias Res . . . . . . 26 

IV The Architectonics of the Ramayana 34 

V The Supernatural Element in the 

Ramayana . . . . . . 40 

VI Rama . . . . . . . . 46 

VII Lakshmana . . . . . . 71 

VIII Indrajit — His Exploits and Death . . 101 


X The Episode of Hiranyakashipu . . 152 

XI Vali and Sugriva . . . . . . 169 

XII Hanuman . . . . . . 195 

XIII Ravana .. .. .. .. 231 

XTV Bharata .. .. .. .. 279 

Sita (Contributed by a member of the 

Delhi Tamil Sangam) . , , , 311 




I Garuda's Flight 
II Valmiki's Vali 

Index to Sita 
Errata . 

Plates : 

V. V. S. Aiyar 



. . facing page lxvi 

Fac-simile of a page from Aiyar's 



(Founded— January 1946) 

Founder-President Founder-Secretary 

Sri S. Subramanyam. Sri A. V. Kuppuswamy. 

The Sangam was begun in a small room in a local boarding 
house in January 1946 with less than a dozen members. 

It was fostered with great care by the selfless work of the 
Founder-President and the first Secretary of the Sangam and it 
was chiefly due to them that the Sangam occupies its present 
position of the cultural centre of the Tamilar in Delhi. 

The Sangam is housed in a building kindly provided by the 
Chief Commissioner of Delhi to whom the Sangam is ever grateful. 

The objects of the Sangam are : 

To provide a venue for the Tamilar to enjoy the cultural 
benefits of the Tamil Literature in its three fields — Poetry 
and Prose, Music, and Drama, and to enable them to establish 
cultural contacts with the people of the local province. 

The Sangam fosters the following activities in furtherance 
of its objects : — 

(a) Conducting of Study Classes in Tamil literature. 

(b) Arranging lectures by eminent scholars on Tamil and 
cognate subjects. 

(c) Weekly Summer talks by members of the Sangam. 

(d) Celebration of the two important Tamil festivals — The 
Pongal and the Tamil New Year — and of Days of the 
Great Savants of Tamil. 

(c) The publication of a manuscript Tamil Magazine for the 
self-expression of the members. 

(/) Maintaining an excellent library of Tamil literature. 

(0) Conducting a class in Hindi for the members. 

(h) Maintaining a Free Reading Room (in memory of the 
orator and patriot S. Satyamurthi) for the Public of 
Delhi and providing same with English, Hindi and Tamil 
Newspapers and Periodicals. 

'S~OT &l*9i&G>& Jtt*n©n5 — 

'M&l£j&g)l£l<£i)af(siB£Ti rngj-bimjsssgyuHisieG&afvagn 

jssgmaf jsb(tiji a p)£w>&—i2? £ ! cuggG$)n9yjns>ri!ii9 

' usi® jsB&si—r*e il&igftiDigf £ ; jj&aiosgci?igf 
•isegmoi m£gs sts/intf—iiasri ji^ainsQosnsg) 

*@i/s?sps'ccs^ jfifl9s>/3/®s/©©9? afajyif&n9£i?) 


This profound study of Kamba Ramayanam seeks to 
present to the world the greatness of the immortal epic of 
Hindu Culture as portrayed by the greatest of Tamil poets. 
It is no exaggeration to say that Valmiki's Ramayana almost 
superseded the Vedas and the Smritis as the fountain source 
of Hindu religion and morals. It was inevitable that it 
should become the ambition of the poetic geniuses who 
arose from time to time in the various parts of India to 
seek to render the Ramayana into their own languages. 
Of these attempts, the Ramayana of Kamban in Tamil and 
that of Tulsidas in Hindi (Brij Bhasha) stand foremost. 
They are often considered superior to the original by their 
enthusiastic admirers. I do not subscribe to this view. 
Taken as a whole, I think Valmiki's Ramayana is incom- 
parable in its simplicity, dignity and power to move the 
mind. It is nevertheless true that for sheer beauty of 
language and delicate portrayal of character and 
emotion, Kamban ordinarily equals and often excels 
Valmiki. The author, V. V. S. Aiyar, who undertook this 
difficult task of presenting the study in English of Kamba 
Ramayanam was a remarkable personality. Perhaps, the 
simplest way to assess him is to say that he stood in the 
field of politics and erudition in the same relation to 
Lokamanya Tilak as Subramanya Bharati stood to Rabin- 
dranath Tagore in the field of poetry. With the dawn of 
the Gandhian era, V. V. S. Aiyar had changed over from 
his older ideas of violent revolution to those of non-violent 
satyagraha. Unfortunately he died before he could play 
an effective part in the new struggle for national liberation. 

Aiyar's love of the Tamil language and his eagerness to 
enrich it and interpret it to the non-Tamil world were 


second only to his passion for Indian independence. He 
died before his fame could be securely established. The 
Delhi Tamil Sangam has done a great service to all lovers 
of literature by undertaking the publication of this study. 
It is to be hoped that their attempt will be crowned with 
success and the volume will have the popularity it deserves. 



A Brief Survey of the Language and its Literature. 

(Compiled by a Member of the Delhi Tamil Sangam.) 

This book, KAMBA RAMAYANAM— A STUDY, was written 
by V. V. S. Aiyar with the avowed object of introducing this great 
literary treasure — the Epic of the Ramayana by Kamban — to those 
who do not know the Tamil language. This fruit of Tamil Poesy 
is only one among the varied fruits and flowers in the Garden of 
Tamil. We feel, therefore, that we should take the reader with 
us into this ancient and flourishing garden for a stroll — however 
brief it may be — so that he may have an idea of the realm from 
which this particular fruit came. 

It is impossible to do any reasonable measure of justice to 
this vast subject of Tamil and its Literature in this short essay. 
We can but make brief mention of many important matters which 
would leave an impression of dogmatic assertions in the absence 
of the volume of evidence behind them. This essay would, 
however, have served our purpose if it did but give the readers 
a glimpse of the antiquity and greatness of the Tamilar, their 
language and its literature, and their place in the culture of this 
Bharata Khanda — called India, and the world. For a detailed 
study, we would refer the readers to the various books on the 
subject some of which have been mentioned in the Bibliography 
at the end of this survey. 

ii. The Tamilar — Their Origin. 

A language is but the medium of expression of a people. It 
is the people who shape the language and give it the impress of 
their own character and life. Who are the Tamilar ? Or, broadly 
speaking, who are the Dravidians — by which name the various 
peoples in the south are designated ? 

The origin of the Dravidians cannot be studied or settled 
without the help of geological, anthropological, ethnological and 

philological evidences. 

Pre-historic On the evidence of very close affinities 

Tamilar. * betwten the plants and animals in Africa and 

India at a very remote period, Mr. R. D. Oldhame 

concludes 1 that there was once a continuous stretch of dry land 

l Manual of the Geology of India. 

Xviii t A M f L 

connecting South Africa and India. This large continent of former 
times which extended from the Sunda Islands along the southern 
coast of Asia to the east coast of Africa, Selata has called Lemuria. 
" Peninsular India or Deccan ", says Sir T. W. Holderness, * " is 
geologically distinct from the Indo-Gangetic plain of the 
Himalayas. It is the remains of a former continent which 
stretched continuously to Africa in the space now occupied by the 
Indian Ocean. In the Deccan, we are in the first days of the 
world. We see land substantially as it existed before the begin- 
nings of life. When the world was still in the making and before 
the elevation of, the Himalayas, the space now occupied by the 
plain was a sea.", , 

Without going to the extent, as some savants of research do, 
of claiming Lemuria or Deccan, its remnant, to be the probable 
cradle of the human race, we may assume that it was the cradle 
of the Dravidians. It was however the cradle only, not the birth- 

Acute difference of opinion, however, exists among scholars 

in regard to the early origin and history of the Dravidians. Some 

very learned men are of opinion that the 

Original Home Dravidians were invaders and that they came 

of the Tamilar. J 

through the north-western route leading to the 
plains of Hindustan, and later migrated to the south. In proof 
of this theory, they point to the existence of a Dravidian tribe in 
Baluchistan speaking the Brahui language which is closely allied 
to Tamil. On the other hand, equally learned scholars maintain 
that the Brahuis were the remnants of an overflow of Dravidians 
from India to Baluchistan 2 . Although the invasion through the 
historic period have been into India, yet the fact remains that 
India was not connected with the mainland of Asia during the 
pre-historic times and that the Peninsular India during even 
remoter periods was connected with Africa on the west and the 
Malayan Archipelago on the east. 

Ethnological evidences seem to point to the Iberian or 
Mediterranean Race as the ancestors of the Dravidians, who, it is 
suggested, migrated along the sea-coast and across the sea to the 

i Peoples and Problems of India. 

2 In a small work of this kind, it will be misleading to make any 
reference to the recent excavations in Mohenjadaro by Dr. Wheeler, and 
the train of hypotheses and counter-hypotheses which the finds have set 
in motion. The ultimate conclusions will throw valuable light on the 
civilization of the Tamilar. The excavations are not yet completed and 
await to be started again. , . . „,, 


Southern Peninsula. Readers are referred to the excellent treatise 
by A. C. Hodden on The Races of Men and their Distribution for 
the reasons underlying this theory. 

These are the people whose language in the south was Tamil 
from which were born later, Telugu, Malayalam, Canarese, Tulu 
and Oran (Oriya). 

iii. The Tamilar — Their Country. 

While the extent of the land and its location where these 
people lived in pre-historic times may be a matter of conjecture, 

we are on surer ground regarding the boundaries 
Tamil-Nad in f the abode of Tamilar — Tamil-akam — in 
Times! 6 * 1 historic times. " The extent of this Tamil-akam 

was not however always the same. Tolkappiyar, 
the great Tamil grammarian, probably of the fourth century B.C., 
Ilango-adigal, the royal ascetic and reputed author of Silap- 
padikaram, and Sikandiyar, a pupil of Agastyar and the author of a 
treatise on music, have made references in their works to the 
boundaries of the Tamil country, from which we can infer that 
the Tamil-akam extended east and west from sea to sea and north 
to south from the Tirupati Hills to Cape Comorin, and to have 
also included the modern States of Travancore and Cochin and the 
Madras district of Malabar. 

This land was divided into three principal kingdoms. They 
were the Pandya, Cola, and Cera Kingdoms. Their boundaries 

varied widely at different times. We deduce 
The Three their extent from certain poems of Auvvai's 

time. She is said to have been a contemporary 
of Kamban. 

The extent of the Pandya Kingdom is defined thus in a poem 
ascribed to Auvvai : 

" South of the river Vellar 1 , Comorin on the south, the 
sea sought by the gulf on the east, and open plain 2 on the 
west comprising fifty-six Kavathams. 3 " 

The Cola Kingdom, according to Puhalendhi, a later day poet, 
is described in this wise. 

1 "The Vellar passes through (what was) the State of Pudukottah 
and falls into the sea, south of Point Calemere. 

2 " Peruveli the open plain or Peruvali probably refers to the Achan 
Koil Ghat leading to Travancore."— M. S. P. Pillal. 

3 Kavatham—& distance of about ten miles. * \ 


" The sea to the east, the overflowing Vellar to the south. 
Kottaikarai to the west, and Elam to the north covering 
twenty-four Kavathams." 

[Kottaikarai was the boundary of the three kingdoms. The Cola 
Kings were great warriors and extended their country to Venkata or the 
hot hill and to the Pennar river.] 

It was in extent just a half of the Pandya Kingdom. 

The Cera kingdom's boundaries too have been sung by Auvvai 
who says : 

" The northernmost point is Palni, right to the east is 
Shencottah (Tenkasi is another reading), to the west is 
Calicut, the sea-shore on the south — extending over eighty 

[Chencode is taken by some to refer to Tiruchencode in the Salem 

In point of extent it was as much as the other two put 

The emblems on the flags of the Kings of these three 
Kingdoms ' were the Fish for the Pandyas, the Tiger for the Colas, 
and the Bow for the Ceras. All the three were unswerving patrons 
of Tamil Literature and its poets. 

These were the lands and these the Kings whose peoples' 
ancient heritage is Tamil, a language as ancient as and coeval with, 
if not older than, any ancient language alive or dead in the world 

iv. The Tamilar — Their Language and Its Origin. 

Tamil is the name of the language spoken by the peoples of 

the lands we have specified above. The word ends with the 

consonant yr, which is unique to the Tamil 

Tamil language and would therefore denote an indi- 

Its meaning;. & - . . . ., , „,,. , .. ... 

genous origin to the word. This letter, in its 

consonant form fe has been assigned a pronunciation of Zh when 

transliterated in other languages, and Zha when it becomes a 

vowel-consonant. Much wordy warfare has raged round the 

question of the origin of the name of the language, whether it is 

indigenous or one given by foreigners. More phonological pedantry 

i Their emblems adorn the seal of the Delhi Tamil Sangam. with the 
Madhurai Temple to signify the headquarters of the ancient Tamil Sangamx 
and the Kutub Minar standing for Delhi where, among many other places, 
the torch of Tamil is carried on to this day. v 


has been exercised J and much ingenuity has been shown in fixing 
the meaning of the term. 

Most authorities are now agreed that the name ' Tamil ' means 
' sweetness ' : only those who have heard the Tevaram and 
Tiruvaymoli (The Saiva and Vaishnava devotional hymns) chanted 
in the traditional manner could alone know how appropriate this 
meaning is. 

" According to M. Hovalacque " writes Mr. M. Srinivasa 

Aiyangar 2 " Tamil is one of the principal languages spoken 

on the face of the globe at the present day. 

Morphological Morphologically, the existing languages are 

Classification. ,..,,. . , , .. , 

divided into four groups, viz., isolating, agglu- 
tinative, polysynthetic and inflectional." 

" The morphological classification is based entirely on the form or 
manner in which the roots or the final elements of a language are put 
together to form words and sentences. In the isolating languages, like 
Chinese, the roots are used as words, each root preserving its full 
independence, unrestricted by any idea of person, gender, number, time 
or mood ; and, in fact, languages of this kind do not require any grammar. 
In the agglutinative languages when two roots join together to form a 
word one of them loses its independence subjecting itself to phonetic 
corruption. This is called the terminational stage. When words blend 
together in a sentence by syncope and ellipsis, it is called polysynthesio. 

This is a feature peculiar to American languages. Thus the 

Algonquin. . . . Languages in which relations between words are 
expressed not only by suffixes and prefixes, but also by a modification of 
the form of roots, are called inflectional languages. For example . . . 
Sanskrit " 

" The theory that languages must pass through the 
monosyllabic and the agglutinative phases successively before 
reaching the inflectional stage — a theory current when Dr. Caldwell 
wrote his Comparative Grammar of the Dravidian Languages — 
has now been given up. An isolating dialect does not become 

1 We feel compelled to quote Mr. Eric Partridge, who offers some 
sound advice on this matter in his book English — A Course for Human 
Beings. He says : " Personal taste is still potent on the one hand ; on the 
other, phonological pedantry should not be allowed to browbeat good 
sense. Whenever you encounter that kind of pedantry, that sort of 
linguistic lunacy, shrug your shoulders ; and let good-sense, aided by sane 
scholarship, guide you " 

2 T.S. p. 147. * 

Important Note : 

The reader is invited to refer to the Bibliography at the end of this 
esSay. Abbreviations used in the footnotes while referring to the books 
• found, therein.. Such references will be found on almost, each 
page and should be taken to mean that the paras on the page are either 
quotations or are based on the book or books. 

!xxii TAMIL 

agglutinative, or an agglutinative one inflectional. The radical 
feature of a language explained in this fourfold classification, 
besides being innate to that tongue, is expressive of the racial 
character of the people that speak it ; it cannot change from one 
class to another though it can be modified or altered by external 

" To the agglutinative group belongs Tamil, while Sanskrit is 
the most ancient cultivated member of the inflectional family. 
Morphologically the one has no connection with the other." 
Limitation of space forbids us from dwelling on any aspect of this 
essay at any length ; we shall therefore, conclude this portion with 
a few quotations from the same author and proceed to the Tamil 
alphabet, and Tamil Literature which latter is the proper subject 
of our survey. 

" The degree of relationship between Tamil and Sanskrit, 
which are the only two important languages known to the Tamils, 
has been variously estimated. During the early 
Relationship centuries of the Christian era, the Tamils, who 

Sanskrit nd were not much acquainted with Sanskrit, 

Tamil. seem to have always held that Tamil was an 

independent language and that it had nothing 
to do with Sanskrit. They did not attribute its origin to Siva, 
Subramanya or Agastya, as the imaginative and sectarian scholars 
of a later date have done. But when they came under the 
influence of Sanskrit culture, that is, subsequent to the seventh 
or eighth century a.d., and when Sanskrit puranas and other 
Sanskrit religious literature were introduced, the views of Tamil 
scholars began to change. Most of them were acquainted with 
both Tamil and Sanskrit ; yet they had greater love and reverence 
for the latter, as their Vedas and Puranas and Agatnas were 
written in that language ; and this partiality or rather a sentiment 
verging on odium, theologicum induced them to trace Tamil from 
Sanskrit just as the early European divines tried to trace the 
Western languages from the Hebrew. 

" All that we can say at present is that Tamil occupies the 
same position in the Dravidian family that Sanskrit does in the 
Aryan — that is, Tamil is the oldest and the most cultivated of 
the Dravidian or South Indian family of languages." 1 

Mr. T. R. Sesha Iyengar has some interesting observations to 
make on this question. " Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, and Canarese 
*.e., the Dravidian languages," he writes, " are all fundamentally 

i Tamil Studies by M. Srinivasa Aiyangar, pp. 151-152 and 167, 


different from Sanskrit, the language of the Aryans. These 
languages, while they have a common origin and a close affinity 
to each other, are different from Sanskrit and its derivatives. 

" No person, who is well- versed in comparative philology 
and who has compared the primitive and essential words and the 
grammatical structure of the Dravidian languages with those of 
Sanskrit, can imagine for a moment that the former have been 
derived from the latter by any process of development or 
corruption. Sanskrit may contribute to the polish of the South 
Indian languages, but is not necessary for their existence. The 
non-Sanskrit portion of the Dravidian languages exceeds the 
Sanskrit portion. The base of Tamil, the most highly cultivated 
as regards its original structure of all the Dravidian languages, 
has an independent origin. In its more primitive words, such 
as the names of natural objects, the verbs expressive of physical 
action or passion, and the numerals, it is unconnected with 
Sanskrit. The Tamil language retains an alphabet . . . which 
has several letters of peculiar powers. Tamil is not dependent 
on Sanskrit for the full expression of thought. The ancient or 
classical dialect of this language, the Sen Tamil, is almost entirely 
free from Sanskrit words and idioms. The finest works in Tamil, 
such as the Kural, are original in design and execution, and also 
independent of Sanskrit. According to Dr. Burnell, the science 
of grammar (vyakarna) was cultivated in the south from a very 
early period, not as derived from Sanskrit, but as communicated 
from a divine source, in other words, as being of indigenous 
origin. Prof. Julien Vinson says, " Tamil and Sanskrit in spite 
of some analogies of words have no connection whatever. Their 
grammatical systems so widely differ that they certainly proceed 
from quite different origins. They are only to one another what 
a cocoa tree would be to a carrot plant." It is thus clear that 
the Dravidian languages belong to a stock distinct from Sanskrit. 
Many Sanskrit words connected with the arts of peace were 
borrowed from the Dravidian. The Dravidian dialects affected 
profoundly the sounds, the structure, the idiom, and the 
vocabulary of Sanskrit. The Dravidian element makes its 
influence felt in the sounds employed not only in the Sanskritic 
vernaculars but to a certain extent in Sanskrit itself. The 
cerebral stops, so characteristic of Dravidian, are found even in 
the earliest Sanskrit. The existence of a Tamilian substratum 
in all the modern dialects of India and of the profound influence, 
which the classical Tamil has exercised on the formation and 


development of both the vedic and the classical Sanskrit, is 
gradually coming to be recognised by students of Indian philology. 
" Dravidian genius was conspicuous not merely in the sphere 
of language, but also in that of literature. Of all the races of 
India, the only people who had a poetical literature independent 
of Sanskrit are the Tamils, a typical Dravidian people." 1 

v. The Tamil Alphabet. 

We shall now briefly deal with the Tamil Alphabet before 
we pass on to its Literature. 

The Tamil alphabet now in use is not what it was a thousand 
years ago. Its form appears to have undergone changes from 

century to century until about the fourteenth, 
^ he Tamil when it reached the present stereotyped 

Vatteluttu. condition. There were, however, two different 

kinds of writing in use in the Tamil country — 
the one indigenous to the Tamil race and the other introduced 
by the Brahmans. The latter is known as the Grantha-Tamil 
alphabet, from which some of the modern Tamil characters have 
sprung, while the former is called by palaeographists as the 
Vatteluttu or the Cera-Pandya alphabet. But the introduction 
of all these did not take place at one and the same period. 

The introduction of the Vatteluttu alphabet must have taken 
place long before the fourth or fifth century B.C., and this 

approximates the earliest date assigned by 
Its origin. European scholars to the introduction of writing 

in India, which was the seventh or eighth century 
before the Christian era. As to who first brought the alphabet 

i The Ancient Dravidians by T. R. Sesha Iyengar, pp. 36-44. — While 
some may not agree with everything Mr. Sesha Iyengar has written, it 
has to be conceded that there is a large measure of truth in his statements 
which are based on careful and extensive study. A language, however, 
cannot afford to remain static, particularly when there is a high-pressure 
effort to carve out for the nation a place among the peoples of the modern 
industrialised and scientific world. It has to grow and borrow and adapt 
foreign words without false pride or narrow bigotry. But there is much 
loose talk on importing wholesale foreign terms, and against this it may 
be pointed out that the law is not only of " the old yielding place to new " 
but also one of recovery and remodelling of the old to suit the new' 
conditions. In this connection, the science of semantics, which has not 
been used as much as it could .have been, could be pressed into service.. 
Ultimately, the common people are the fathers of- the language, and? they 
use semantics day in, day out, though entirely ignorant pf the term.— (p>: 

T.S., pp. 114, 115 and 119, 


from the western Semitics — whether the Southern Dravidians or 
the Northern Aryans — it is not quite easy to settle. 

Dr. Burnell seems to think that Vatteluttu had an independent 
source and had nothing to do with the Brahmi alphabet of 
Northern India. ' This alphabet,' he says, ' was formed and settled ' 
before the Indo-Aryan grammarians of the Tamil language came 
to Southern India. 

Although the Tamilians owed their grammar to Agastya and 
to Tolkappiyar, it should not be inferred that they were indebted 
to them for the art of writing also. 

Among the Dravidian races of South India, the Tamils alone 
made use of the Vatteluttu alphabet from time immemorial, whilst 
their Telugu and Kanarese neighbours have, so far as epigraphical 
researches reveal, been using some alphabet or other which had 
its origin from the Brahmi of Upper India. 

The vast difference that exists between Tamil and the Aryan 
languages in their vocabulary, between the Tamils and the Indo- 
Aryans, the contempt which the one had for the other, and the 
great antiquity and the divine origin which the Tamils claim 
for their ' sweet ' language, and its grammar — all these seem to 
favour the indigenous origin of the Tamil Vatteluttu alphabet. 

The Vatteluttu or the Tamil archaic alphabet is so called on 
account of its round or circular form like the modern Telugu 
alphabet, while its modern development has assumed the angular 
or, as some would say, square shape. This angularity was due 
to the facility in writing on palm leaves with an iron stylus, or 
in cutting on stones or copper plates with a chisel. 

Let us now take the number, order, and pronunciation of 
the Tamil letters. There are thirty-one letters ; twelve vowels 

and eighteen consonants ; and one semi-vowel, 
The Present-day represented by the symbol a . The sound of 

it is midway between the Arabic ghayn and the 
Sanskrit p® %. It is found in no other Indian or European 
languages, and it seems to suggest some connection of the Tamil 
race with the Semitic or Western Asiatic nations. 

The other letters peculiar to Tamil are y )i etr, p, «r. The 
letter, p is equally a private property of Tamil and a terrible 
bugbear for Europeans to pronounce. It has been variously, 

T.S., pp. 120, 122, 124, 125, 131, 132 and 134, 


transliterated in some of the European languages, by lj, zj, zh, 
rl, 1, zy, etc. 

The letter p has the sound of a rough r and that of tr. The 
sounds of * (Hindi si) and «r are almost identical and it 
may be supposed that the second is redundant. But their origin 
shows a slight variation and justifies the necessity for the existence 
of both, because m is a dental while «r isa palatal letter. 

The Tamil consonants comprise only the unaspirate hard 
consonants, nasals, and semi-vowels. There are no separate 
symbols for aspirate hard consonants, but the sounds are 
pronounced by the combination of the cerebral stop of a consonant 
and its vowel consonant, and are written accordingly. Tamil 
words do not begin with such sounds. There are, moreover, no 
hard-consonant sibilants or unaspirate or aspirate soft-consonants. 
The sounds are, however, pronounced in speech and reading. The 
story of how cannot be told here. 

vi. History of the Tamil Language. 

Coming now to the history of the Tamil language, it may 
conveniently be divided into three periods, namely, (1) the early 
Tamil, comprising the period between the sixth century before 
and after Christ ; (2) the Mediaeval Tamil, occupying the interval 
between the sixth century and the twelfth century ; and (3) the 
Modern Tamil, extending from the twelfth down to the present 
day. We shall briefly indicate the characteristics of each period. 

Early Tamil was the language used by the writers of the 
academic and the classic periods. And the peculiarities of this 
Tamil may be observed in the literature of those 
Early Tamil times, the important of which being the Ahana- 

nuru, the Purananuru, the Pattuppattu, the 
Padirruppattu, the Silappadikaram and the Manimekaloi. The 
standard grammars of the epoch were the TolJcappiyam, 
Pannirupadalam, Usimuri, etc. 

Words of foreign origin were never introduced, notwithstand- 
ing the commercial intercourse of the Tamils with the Greeks, 
the Romans, and the Arabs, whom they indiscriminately called 
the Yavanas. Sanskrit words were very sparingly used and even 
these were mutilated in their form. For instance, it is calculated 
that in the Pattuppattu there are only about 2% of Sanskrit 

T.S., pp. 172, 173 and 174. 


The literature of this period is all poetry — simple blank 
verse, in chaste classic style, devoid of rhetorical flourishes, figures 
of speech, hyperbolic descriptions, and intricacies of later prosody 
which mar the excellence of modern Tamil poems ; asiriyappa, 
kalippa, venba, and vanjippa are the metres mostly used. The 
descriptions of events and scenery are all faithful and true to 

The subject-matter of most of these works is the panegyric 
of reigning kings, descriptive of their military prowess, their 
liberality, and their administration. Some of them depict 
poverty, chiefly of bards, in a very pathetic manner. Some are 
on morality, while only a few relate to religion. 

The Mediaeval Tamil period embraces the Brahmanic and the 
sectarian periods of Tamil literature. The early part of it was one 

of struggle for predominance between Brahma- 
Mediaeval Tamil, nism on the one hand and Buddhism and Jainism 

on the other, in which the former came out 
triumphant, Buddhism being deprived of following in this land and 
Jainism crippled. The literature of this epoch consists of hymns to 
Siva and Vishnu and of the accounts of the life and adventures of 
Siva and Subrahmanya, Rama and Krishna, and Jina. The 
standard works on Tamil grammar during this period were 
Tolkappiyam, Virasoliyam, Nambi's Ahapporul, Neminadam, etc. 

Sanskrit words, chiefly relating to religion, were largely 
introduced, and some of the Tamil words and forms current in 
the preceding epoch gave way to new ones. 

For poetry or metrical composition, which was still the only 
form of literary production, asiriyam and venba metres were not 
so much in favour as the viruttam, tandakam and others of 
Sanskrit prosody. These were introduced with their alankaras 
or embellishments. Rhyme and antadi forms were introduced to 
render the recital of sacred songs easier. As for their style, the 
pure simplicity and the natural beauty of the academic period 
were gone. Affectation and artificiality even in excess were 
considered a literary excellence. As it was a period of struggle 
for religious supremacy every one of the four sects attempted to 
excel the rest by extolling and exaggerating its own doctrines, 
and by fabricating miracles to support them. Truth was thrown 

T.S., pp. 176-179. 


in the background and its place was taken up by mythological 
accounts of preter-natural events, such as one might find in the 
puranas and itihasas. Thus Chintamani, the Ramayana, the 
Kandapurana, the Tiruvilayadalpurana, the Periyapurana and 
the Mahabharata came to be replete with stories of this kind. 
However, a true spirit of devotion and piety, though blind or 
fanatical it might appear to us, pervaded the writings of this very 
troublous period. 

To the Tamils the modern period which begins from the 
thirteenth century is important in every respect. The ancient 

kingdoms of the Colas and the Pandyas were 
Modern Tamil. subverted. A powerful Telugu empire was 

coming into existence on the banks of the 
Tungabhadra, which before the close of the fifteenth century 
absorbed all the Tamil kingdoms. Then came the Mahratta and 
the Musalman hordes from the north, and lastly the Europeans 
from beyond the sea. 

Till about the end of the seventeenth century the Tamil 
countries were ruled by Hindu governors. Brahmanical influence 
was in the ascendant. The learning of Sanskrit, Tamil and 
Telugu was encouraged. Several original works in all these 
languages were written, besides innumerable commentaries in 
Tamil as well as in Sanskrit on ancient works, especially on the 
Nalayira Prabhandam, — all tending to harden and aggravate the 
sectarian .... animosities, until a reaction set in during the 
succeeding period of Musalman despotism. Then for about 
half-a-century there was a lull, which was followed by the 
production of anti-Brahmanical, Christian and Islamic literatures. 
And it was only during the first half of the last century that the 
vernacular literature began to revive. 

With the change in government, religion and social customs 
many Tamil words had gone out of use giving way to new ones. 

Most of the revenue and judicial terms, names relating to 
office furniture and stationery, and generally most words relating 
to the administrative machinery are Arabic, Persian or English. 
The religious terms, of course, are all Sanskrit. 

There is nothing new in the grammar of this period, perhaps 
with the exception of a leaning towards a greater use of Sanskrit 
and foreign words by the educated classes ; and the unconscious 

T.S., pp. 181, 192. 


creeping in of several English words in the home-speech of the 
English educated Tamilians. 

Poetry was the only medium of literary expression of thought 
in Tamil till about the beginning of the last century, excepting 
of course, the extensive commentaries and copious notes on ancient 
poems. However, the natural ease and beauty of the writings 
of the academic and the hymnal periods were gone. The 
kalambakam, malai, antadi, pillai-tamil, parani, ula, kovai and 
thoodu were the different kinds of poesy adopted for shorter 
literary compositions, and the kavya (kappiyam) form for longer 
and more descriptive works like the puranas. For these quasi- 
religious compositions all kinds of metres enumerated in the 
grammar books on prosody were freely made use of. 

vii. Tamil Literature — Its Classification. 

Among the Dravidian tribes of South India, the Tamils were 
the first to cultivate a literature. 

Indian grammarians have divided Tamil literature into three 

classes, namely — Iyal (belles-lettres), Isai (Music) and Natakani 

(Drama). As this essay is concerned mainly 

N^t'k 8 **' w * th the literature °f tne fW al Tamil, it will not 

be inopportune to first briefly say something 
about the Isai and the Natakam or Kuttu, before we proceed to 
our subject. 

Tradition says that Agastya was the only grammarian who 
wrote complete treatises on the grammar of all the three classes 
of Tamil, but none of them are now extant. During the early 
centuries of the Christian era attention seems to have been paid 
by the Tamils to all the three. They had their own dances and 
music — vocal and instrumental. They developed the art of dancing 
to a high degree of perfection and many treatises were written 
on this fine art ; even their gods had their characteristic favourite 

Music too, was in a state of perfection, and their pans of 
tunes were sui generis to the Tamil race. The only ancient Tamil 
work of the nature of the drama that has come down to us is 
the Silappadikaram (third century). It gives a vivid description 
of the stage, the actor, the singer, the drummer, the flute-player, 
the yal-player and others of the troupe ; and contains beautiful 

T.S., pp. 183 and 185. 


specimens of Vari, Kuravi, Ammanai, Usal, Kandukam, Vallai, 
and other classes of musical songs. 

A brief description of the yal 1 , a stringed musical instrument, 
similar to the guitar, peculiar only to the ancient Tamils may 
not be uninteresting. It was of four kinds, viz., Per-yal, Makara- 
yal, Sakotayal and Senkottiyal. Per-yal had 21 strings ; a 
Makarayal, 17 ; Sakota-yal, 16 ; and Sengottu-yal, 7. Perhaps 
these were the instruments in use during the days of Ilango-adigal. 
And the per-yal — big ' yal ' — which is supposed to have been in use 
in the days of Agastya had become extinct even before the third 
century a.d. It is said to have had one thousand strings. 

The works on music, dancing, and the drama written by 
ancient Tamils, were neglected and left to shift for themselves ; 
and by the time of Adiyarkunallar (about 1200 a.d.) most of 
them were lost. With them the Dravidian music and dances 
became practically extinct. No one can now say what those pans 
and dances were like. Their places were gradually taken up by 
the Indo-Aryan ragams and natyams. 

During festivals and processions of gods, dancing was 
encouraged and plays were acted to draw large crowds of 
devotees. Hundreds of dancing girls or gandharvis were attached 
to every important temple. This was the origin of the institution 
of singing by Oduvans and Araivans, and the public representation 
of natakas, pallus and kuravanjis in Hindu temples. Of these the 
first alone now survives. The same institution was carried to 
the West Coast, and it now survives in the Chakkiyar kuttu. It 
was only during the eighteenth century that drama and music 
began to revive ; and Arunachala Kavi (a.d. 1712-1779) the 
famous author of Rama Natakam may justly be called the father 
of modern dramatic literature, and under the Mahratta Rajas of 
Tan j ore, a fresh impetus was given to music. 

We shall now come to the classification of Iyal. The following 
table 2 gives a tolerably accurate outline of the important stages 
in the progress of Tamil literature. As has 
Classification already been explained religion pervades almost 

of Iyal-Tamii. tne whole of every literature in India, and 

the table therefore exhibits the several periods 
of the religious history also. 

i The ' 1' in yal should be pronounced like ' zh *. 
2 of Mr. Srinivasa Aiyangar, T.S. p. 211. 
T.S., pp. 187-189, 190 and 191. 

f he language and literature 






B.C. 600-200 


I Academic 


Kural, etc.) 

I Early 
Grammar : 

\ Agastyam, 

B.C. 200— A.D. 150 


II Classic (or 

j Tolkappiyam 

A.D. 150-500 


ikaram, Mani- 
mekalai, etc.) 


A.D. 500-950 


Ill Hymnal 



1 II Mediaeval 


Grammar : 
\ Tolkappiyam 

A.D. 950-1200 


XV Translations 







nam, etc.) 

A.D. 1200-1450 


V Exegetical 
ies by Nacchi- 


Ill Modern 


)■ Grammar : 




and Nannul 

A.D. 1450-1850 


VI Miscellaneous 

viii. The Sangams. 

The real history of Tamil literature begins with the Tamil 
Sangam (Academies) which lasted from B.C. 500 to a.d. 500. This 
millennium might perhaps appear to be a very long period ; but 
during the first half of it none of the extant Tamil works, probably 
with the exception of Tolkappiyam and one or two others, were 

The ancient classics of the Tamil people frequently refer to 
sangams or societies of learned men. " The word ' Sangam ', * 

l V. R. Ramachandra Dikshitar states (pp. 21) that the early poem 
■Where there is a reference to this institution is the Maduraikanchai * (line 

* (One of the poems in Pattupottu, a work of the Third Sangam era.) 

T.S., pp. 211 and 212. 


used by Buddhists and Jains for a religious order or coterie, came 
to supersede," writes the late Mr. Purnalingam Pillai, "on the 
score of its euphony, the expression, ' Kuttam which is Tamil, and 
the presence of poets of the Buddhists or Jain persuasion in the 
third academy in modern Madura (Madhurai, since 1948) accounts 
for it. Madura bears the name of Kudal, for the reason that the 
poetic academy met there." 

The Sangam was a body, not perhaps with a charter, etc. in 
the beginning, of the most learned men of the time, whose chief 
function, like that of the French Academy, was the promotion of 
literature. The name ' academy ', therefore, seems to be 
appropriate to this institution and is therefore used in the following 

According to Tamil writers there were three sangams in the 
Pandya country at different periods. 

Of the three academies the second was more or less continuous 
with the first, and both probably existed sometime between the 
fifth century b.c. and second century a.d., while 
Three Sangams. the third, and the most "important of them all 
seems to have lasted till a.d. 500, or, to put .it 
more precisely, could not have lasted beyond a.d. 500. For, " most 
of the inscriptions now available date from roughly a.d. 600 by 
which time it is probable that the sangam as an active institution 
had ceased to exist. Hence they had no occasion to mention it 
and did not mention it." 1 

The earliest literary activity of the Tamilians could have 
shown itself only after the introduction of writing in South India, 
which must have taken place long before the fourth century B.C. 
We shall not therefore be wrong if we look for the foundation of 
the first Tamil Academy or Sangam somewhere between the sixth 
and fourth centuries before the Christian era. 

Tamil literature of course did not begin only with the founding 

of Academies as indicated in the table. This was preceded by 

what may be called the pre-academic periods 

Ltt e ** < t ademiC But to attem P t an account of it will be groping 

in the dark, as all literary evidence we now 
possess relates either to the academic or to the post-academic 
period. Some Tamil scholars still believe that Agastya invented 
the Tamil alphabet. This is certainly erroneous. The use of pure 
Tamil words like Eluthu and Suvadi by Agastya proves unmistak? 
ably the existence of the Tamil alphabet and the use of books 

1 D., p. 7. T.S., pp. 211 and 212. 


among the Tamils long before his days. And even the compilation 
of the first grammar for this language by this Aryan sage, afte,r 
the Sanskrit model, is an argument in favour of the pre-existenoe 
of literature among the Tamils of antiquity. That literature 
always precedes grammar is a stern philological fact recognized 
by Agastya and later grammarians. 

It is therefore almost certain that some sort of literature and 
also good poets must have existed before the academic era ; but 
nothing can at present be asserted about it in the absence of any 
literary or other records. 

Regarding the First Academy, we have no reliable particulars 
on which we could base any conclusions regarding its date of 

inception or its members. 
The First N or have any of the writings attributed to 

this academy come down to us in their entirety, 
excepting probably a few doubtful quotations from Agastyam and 
one or two others. Apparently all these had been lost long before 
the tenth or eleventh century. 

The only authors of this period about whom any account, 
however scanty it might be, can be extracted from Tamil literature 
are Agastya and Murinjiyur Mudinagarayar. The rest of the 
members seem to be half mythical persons. The life of Agastya 
is clothed in myth ; but this much is certain that he was a Brahman 
of North India and that he led the first colony of Brahmans which 
settled in the Tamil districts. 

He is said to have had twelve students. Chief of them, 
Tolkappiyar, was alsq a member of the second academy like his 
renowned master. 

The identification of Ten (South) Madura, the seat of the first 
Academy has been a controversial point. Regarding the destruction 
of this place there are certain allusions both in the Madura 
Stalapurana and in the Silappadikaram. The learned commentator 
of the latter work writes as follows : ' Between the rivers Kumari 
and Pahruli there existed an extensive continent occupying an 
area of 700 Kavadams (a Kavadarri being equal to ten miles). This 
land consisting of forty-nine nads (inclusive of Kollam and 
Kumari), innumerable forests, mountains and rivers. had been 
submerged in the Indian Ocean as far as the peaks of Kumari, 
-by a terrific convulsion which resulted in the upheaval of the 
'Himalayan range.' Geological, - ethnological and linguistic 
researches also seem to confirm the above theory. 

T.S., pp. 237,-2*0 and 241. 

SCXXIV ..." T A M 1 1 

To arrive at the date of the Second Academy is equally 
The Second m^ v r Ramachandra Dikshitar argues 

a tif am. ^ 21-D) : "If the author of the Tirukkural 

could be proved to have lived in the second century B.C., then 
there is warrant for the assumption that the Tolkappiyam is a 
much earlier work, at least one or two centuries earlier than the 
second century B.e. According to the Payiram to the Tolkappiyam 
the latter was presented to the Academy and won its approval. 
If this account has any significance, it compels us to conclude that 
prior to the days .of Tolkappiyanar the Sangam existed as an 
institution and tbftj&rammarian did what the scholars of his time 
did. It must .fee also borne in mind that the grammar of 
Tolkappiyanar or his illustrious predecessor Agattiyanar 
presupposes a body of literary works. Roughly then, a date like 
the fifth century B.C. may be assigned in regard to the origin of 
the Sangam." (First.) He adds a foot-note "Professor V. 
Rangachariar's researches have led him to this conclusion." 

It is said that the seat of the second Sangam was Kavatapuram. 
The transfer of the headquarters from Ten Madura to Kavatapuram 

and from the latter city to the modern city of 
Change of Madura (seat of the third Sangam) is probably 

a historical fact. The former two sites are said 
to have been overwhelmed and submerged by two different 
incursions of the sea. 

The only work of the Second Sangam which has come down 
to us is the Tolkappiyam. Nothing further is known about 
Tolkappiyar, than that he was a student of Agastya and that he 
lived in a village near Madura during the reign of the Pandya 
king Makirti. AH the works of this academy have also been 
irretrievably lost, except the above work and a few poems which 
luckUy found their way into the anthologies compiled at the third 

We shall now pass on to the third Sangam which was by far 
the most important, and about which we are particularly 
concerned. Almost all the best Tamil classics 
The Third we now possess are the productions of this last 

a»s5*sa. Sangam. Nothing definite can be said about the 

foundation of the third Sangam except that it had its seat at the 
modern Madura. 

TS-, pp. 244 and 245. '■■■::.. 


A comparison of these ancient institutions of the Tamil people 
with the modern Royal Academy of the French will be interesting, 
since both of them were alike in their constitution, work and 
influence. The French Academy was established in a.d. 1635, that 
is nearly two thousand years after the first Tamil Academy, and 
its members were fixed at forty. Its object was to cleanse the 
language of the impurities, which had crept into it through the 
common people who spoke it and to render it pure, eloquent and 
capable of treating the arts and sciences .... It has done 
much by its example for style and has raised the general standard 
of writing, though it has tended to hamper and crush originality. 

Language has life and growth, and when left to itself sprouts 
out into divers dialects like the branches of a living tree. " The 
bit and bridle of literature " says Max Muller, " will arrest a 
natural flow of language in the countless rivulets of its dialects, 
and give a permanency to certain formations of speech which, 
without these external influences, could have enjoyed but an 
ephemeral existence ". This linguistic principle was clearly 
understood and fully recognised by the founders of the Tamil 
academies. To secure, therefore, permanency to the Tamil 
language, the boundaries of the country where it was current were 
roughly described and the particular locality in which pure Tamil 
(Sen-Tamil) was spoken was sharply defined ; then the form and 
pronunciation of letters were settled ; rules were laid down to 
distinguish pure Tamil words from those of foreign origin, and to 
determine the structure and combination of words in sentences. 
These and many other restrictions on the free growth of the 
language were dealt with in the first Tamil grammar. Treatises 
were written on prosody, rhetoric and Porul (details of conduct in 
matters of love and warfare). Poetical dictionaries or nikhanduz 
were compiled in order to check the indiscriminate and unlicensed 
introduction of alien words in the Tamil vocabulary. The canons 
of literary criticism were severe and were applied impartially. 

In this way the Tamil language, which passed through the 
crucible of the three academies, was refined and given to the 
Tamil-land as a perfect instrument for the expression of the best ' 
thoughts and sentiments of its people. The influence of these 
academies is markedly seen in the Tamil writings which received 
their approval, their style and language and choice of words 
differing much from that of the Tamil works of the post-academic 

T.S.. od. 257, 259, 260 and 261. 


For the advancement of literature and academies the Tamil 
, kings did much. Liberal presents in the shape of money, 
(elephants, palanquins, chariots with horses, lands, and flowers of 
•gold were bestowed upon deserving poets. Titles of distinction 
were also conferred on them. Instances of the Tamil kings 
honouring poets, and of their indirectly encouraging them are only 
too many. 

ix. The Extant Sangam Works. 

According to the tradition which finds a mention in the famous 

commentary on the Iraiyanar Ahapporal the following are given 

as the accredited works of the first Sangam : 

First Sangam Paripadal, Mudunarai, Mudukurugu, and 


Since narai and kuruhu are suffixed to the titles of works, it 
is reasonable to conclude that they were musical treatises, and 
ancient Tamil land developed the arts of music and dancing besides 
literary activities. 

It is generally believed that works of the first Sangam are lost, 
perhaps, beyond recovery. The extant Poripadol may be the 
composition of the third Sangam rather than that of the first. 

The works attributed to the second Sangam are Kali, 
Kuruhu, Vendah, Viyalamalai Ahaval, Agattiyam, Tolkappiyam, 
Mapuranam, Isainunukkam, and Budapuranam, 
Second Sangam ^he last five being grammatical compositions. 

With regard to the compositions of the 
second Academy, we have to take it that all of them except 
Tolifcappiyam have been lost. Tolkappiyam was the grammar 
during the period of the, second and third Academies. 

Tolkappiyam, the life-work of its author, is in three parts and 
counts 1,612 sutras. It is the oldest extant Tamil grammar, the 
name signifying ' ancient book ' or ' the preserver of ancient 
institutions '. It was preceded by centuries of literary culture, for 
it lays down rules for different kinds of poetical compositions, 
deduced from examples furnished by the best authors whose works 
had been in existence. 

It treats clearly and systematically of only one of the three 
time-honored divisions of Tamil, viz., Iyal or Natural Tamil. The 
three parts of it are Eluthu (Orthography), Sol (Etymology), and 
Porul (Matter), each with nine sections. 

T.S., p. 260, D. pp. 24 and 25. P. p. -23: 


White the Eluttadikaram and the SoUadikaram are interesting 
from both linguistic and philological points of view, the PoruU 
adikaram is most valuable as it gives us a glimpse of the political, 
social and religious life of the people during the period when 
Tolkappiyar lived. 

It is the only work from which we can have a gleaning of 
the ancient Tamilar's manners and customs. 

(a) Eluthu : The first part deals with Letters, i.e., 

(b) Sol : The second part on Words is masterly in treatment. 
In this the author has attempted at finding the root meanings of 
words. It is a peculiarity — a peculiarity which will show the 
critical culture of the Tamilar — that the gender classification is 
based on the signification of words. 

(c) Porul : The third part, Poruladikaram is valuable as it 
gives us a glimpse of the political, social and religious life of the 
people during the period when Tolkappiyar lived. 

We have already pointed out that the Tamil language is 
classified under three broad sections, viz., Iyal (Natural), Isai 
(Music) and Natakam (Drama). There are a few other 
classifications, reference to which will be frequently made in this 
essay ; and it is well that we mention the classifications here, 
(o) The subject-matter of the work is classified as — 
(i) Aham. 
(ii) Puram. 
(b) The land which the works treat of is classified into : 
(i) Kurinchi (mountain regions), 
(ii) Palai (desert), 
(iii) Mullai (jungle), 

(iv) Neithal (beach or coastal region), and 
(v) Marutham (fields ; i.e., land brought under 
cultivation, or more generally speaking, the 
plains) . 
These classifications are well explained in the following quotation 
from Tamil Literature by the late Mr. Purnalingam Pillai : 

" Porul (substance, subject, matter) is divided into Aham 
(inner) and Puram (outer). Of these Aham, the Subjective, 
treats of love, its various emotions, and incidents ; and Puram, the 
Objective, relates to all other things — life in general, and especially 
war and the affairs of the S*at*> 

D. p. 26. P. p. 25. 


(i) Aham. Love is true or natural, when mutual affection 
draws the parties together, and untrue or unnatural when it is 
one-sided (kaikilai) or ill-assorted and morganatic or forced 
(perum thinai). True love is considered under five aspects, viz., 
union (punarthal), separation (pirithal), patience in separation 
(irutthal), bewailing (irangal), and sulking or going into a pet 
(udal), and these are made to fit in with the five-fold physiogra- 
phical divisions (thinat). Further, it is made to turn on the six 
divisions of the year (August to July) viz., cloudy (kar), cold 
(kuthir), early dew (mun-pani), late dew (pin-pani), spring 
(ila-venil), and summer (muthuvenil) , and on the six divisions 
of the day ; viz., the first hours of night (malai), midnight 
(yamam), the small hours of night (vaikarai), morning (kalai), 
noon (nanpakal), and evening (erpadu). Besides these, the 
natural peculiarities of each of the five thinais are made to bear on 
the aspect of love peculiar to it. Such peculiarities are comprised 
under fourteen heads, viz., deities (ar-anangu), nobles 
(uyarnthore) , the vulgar (ilinthore), birds (pull), beasts 
(vilangu), town (oor), water (neer), flowers (poo), trees 
(maram), food (vunavu), drum (parai), lyre (yal), tune (pan) 
and occupation (tholil). Love, again, is wedded (karpu), or 
furtive (kalavu) ; and furtive love leads to wedlock or the grave, 
for the rejected lovers cannot bear life without love. Marriage 
was solemnised by the parents on the self-choice of the lovers, 
and marital rites came into vogue when aliens proved untrue in 
their courtship. This is a bare outline of Aham, and commentators 
find in it an allegory of the different stages through which the 
soul of man passes from its appearance in the body to its final 
absorption in the Supreme. 

(it) Puram, whose subject is war and state, consists of seven 
divisions, the first five of which correspond to the five-fold division 
of true love, and the last two correspond to kaikilai and perum- 
thinai. The seven divisions of puram, with their corresponding 
divisions of Aham, are as follows : — 

1. Vetcht, cattle-raid, corresponds to Kurinchi. 







P. pp. 25-27. 

Vanchi, invasion, 



Ulinai, siege, 



Thumbai, war 



Vohci, victory, 



Kanchi, sober counsel 



Padau, encomium, 




Cattle-raiding is the beginning of warfare. It leads to 
systematic invasions of the raiders' territories. Then comes the 
siege, upon which the war proper begins. The war ends in victory 
to one party or the other, and the victor and the vanquished are 
counselled respectively to be sober, without being intoxicated with 
success, and to be calm and resigned, without being over-powered 
by grief. The loyal subjects of the victor pay him their joyful 
tribute of laudatory odes or encomia. 

A brief note on the language of flowers will close this bird's- 
eye view of Tholkappiam. [Vetchi, Vanchi, etc., are also names 
of flowers ; garlands made from the respective flower are worn by 
the King when he sets out on the type of warfare indicated by the 
name.] Vetchi, the country geranium or ' flame of the forest,' 
bears a profusion of bright, deep-red flowers, which are associated 
in idea with bloody action. Vanchi, a creeping plant, bears yellow 
flowers and is green all the year round. It is a symbol of 
inexhaustible energy. Ulinai is a species of cotton plant whose 
shoots are golden, and a wreath of which is worn in derision as 
emblematic of the weak and worthless fort besieged. Thumbai. 
called in Sanskrit drona, is the essential war-flower, and a wreath 
of it is worn when a king contemplates an offensive war. Valuii 
(mimosa flectuosa) bears white flowers, and a wreath of its leaves 
and flowers is worn by a king who returns home after a glorious 

The importance of Tolkappiyam is further enhanced by several 
commentators among whom figure (1) Ilampuranar, (2) Per- 
Asiriyar, (3) Senavarayar, (4) Nacchinarkiniyar, (5) Daivac- 
cilaiyar, (6) Kalladar. 

While no works of the First Sangam have come down to us, 

and the Second Sangam is represented by 

Third Sangam Tolkappiyam alone, we are more lucky with the 

Third Sangam. 

In addition to the tradition transmitted in the commentary on 

the Iraiyanar Ahapporul, we have other traditions all of which 

mark the following as the accredited works of this Sangam : the 

Ettutogai, the Pattuppattu and the Padinen-kilk-kanakku, all 

which have come down to us today. Kuttu, Vari, Sirrisai, Perisai, 

etc., are others which are now only names to us, the works 

themselves having been lost long since. 

Space forbids us to offer anything but the briefest notice on 
the major works of the third Sangam. 

£>., p. 20. 



The EttHtogai comprises •:• Natrium, Kuruntogai; AingWxttiuru, 
Padirruppattu, Paripadal, Kalittogai, Neduntogai, Purananuru and 

The Narrinal contains 401 stanzas, each ranging from nine to twelve 
< lines,; ,Ili it we find the hands of 175 poets. The verses deal with the 
five thinais, 28 on mullai, 32 on marudam, 107 on poloi, 103 on neithal 
and 120 on kurinjt. Its general theme is love and its compilation was 
at the instance of a Pandyan king, Pannadutanda Pandiyan Maran 

The Kuruntogai literally means a collection of short poems. In 
this work is brought together a number of verses attributed to as 
many as 205 poets. This collection contains 402 stanzas in the ahaval 
metre', each stanza ranging from four to eight lines. As in the Narrinai 
the theme of the work is love and the stanzas can be brought under 
the category of the five thinais. It would appear that the compilation 
of the extant work was effected under the patronage of the chieftain 
of Purl (identified with North Malabar) by name Purikko. There 
was an ancient gloss on the work by the well-known commentator 
Per-Asiriyar which has since become lost. 

Nacchinarkiniyar has written a gloss on twenty verses only, 
because, in all probability, the other gloss existed in his time. 

The Aingurunuru means literally the short five hundred. It 
contains 500 ahaval verses and the whole book can be conveniently 
divided into five parts, each part consisting of 100 stanzas. Each verse 
.contains three to six lines. Every part again deals with five thinais. 

Orambagiyar, ■ Ammuvanar, Kapilar, Odalandaiyar, and Peyanar, 
are said to be the respective authors of hundred verses each on 
marudam, neithal, kurinji, palai, and mullai thinais respectively. In 
the case of this work, however, the name of the compiler is known 
as Kudalur Kilar. 

The Padirruppattu (the Ten Tens) is an anthology of enormous 
importance. Here we are introduced to a number of kings of the 
Cera dynasty, with a splendid record of their deeds and achievements 
thus enabling us to get at a true picture of the political conditions 
of Tamil land about two thousand years ago. Of the ten books into 
which the whole work is divided, the first and the last are not available 
to us. 

The Paripadal (literally stanzas of strophic metre) is according to 
tradition a composition of the first Academy as well as the third 
Academy. If both are 'different works, the first Sangam work is lost. 
The Paripadal of the third Academy is said to consist of seventy 
stanzas attributed as usual to multifarious poets. It is unfortunate 
that as many as forty-six verses of this important work are lost. 
There is an ancient commentary of Parimelalagar which has been 
printed with the available texts by Mahamahopadhyaya U. V. 
Swaminatha Aiyar. 

The Kalittogai, otherwise known as - Kurunkalittogai or simply 
Kali is yet another important work . of this category; It contains 
pne hundred and .fifty stanzas in the Jtali metre dealing, with, the five 
thinais. its theme is love- but ifalso contains a number of -ttioral 

D., pp. 26-31. . , 


, maxims. Incidentally it furnishes us with some peculiar marriage 
customs current in those ancient days. Kadungon, Kapilar, Marudan 
Ilanaganar, Cola Nalluttiran and Nallanduvanar are the poets who 
composed the various songs in the work. We have no prima facie 
evidence as to the name of the compiler and the patron at whose 
instance the work was compiled. But it is generally believed that one 
of the five poets, Nallanduvanar, was the compiler. The celebrated 
commentator Nacchinarkiniyar has written a gloss on it. 

The Neduntogai, otherwise known as Ahappattu and popularly 
known as Ahananuru' or simple Aham is an anthology of sufficient 
importance and value to a student of ancient Tamil culture. It 
contains 401 stanzas in the ahaval metre and is divided into three 
sections — Kallirriyanai-nirai of 121 stanzas, Manimidaipavalam of 180 
stanzas and Nittilakkovai of 100 stanzas. Its general theme is love. 
The length of the stanzas varies from thirteen to thirty-seven lines. 
' As many as 145 names of poets are given in this collection whose 
compiler was Uruttirasarman, the son of Uppurikudi Killar of Madura. 
It was accomplished under the distinguished auspices of the Pandyan 
king Ukkirapperuvaludi. 

The Purananuru otherwise known as Purappattu or simply Puram 
is a valuable anthology of 400 stanzas in ahaval form. It is the 
counterpart of the preceding work, the Ahananuru, and deals witn 
aspects of ancient Tamil culture and forms a good record of the 
Tamil civilization in ancient times. It deals with war and matters 
of state. There is a view that the work is a later compilation inasmuch 
as the name of Poygaiyar, a poet of Post-Sangam days is mentioned 
among the poets referred to in the Puram. It also contains the poems 
of Murinjiyur Mudinagarayar, Vanmikiyar, and others who, according 
to the legends, belong to the first Academy. Thus the anthology 
contains odes ranging from the epoch of the First Sangam to that of 
Post-Sangam. Whatever may be the date of its compilation, the events 
it treats of are ancient and hence invaluable to an antiquarian. 

The Pattuppattu is a collection of ten idylls. An idyll is a 
short poem descriptive of some picturesque scene or incident, 
chiefly in pastoral life. It is not known by whom and when, these 
poems written at different times were brought together. The 
poems are by various authors. 

Five of them belong to a peculiar class called Arruppadai. An 
arruppadai is a poem in which a bard or ministrel is recommended 
to go to a patron to solicit help from him. It is addressed to 
another seeker for favours by one who has already benefited 
munificently at the hands of the patron. Only one of them differs 
from the others, viz., Tirumuruharruppadai, which directs devotees 
not to a patron but to a God. 

The following is an attempt to name them in a probable time 
order, and to give a brief account of them. 1 

i.This arrangement and description are given by J. V. his 
Pattupatiu (General Publishers Ltd., Colombo), an excellent rendering 
in English verse. 


1. Porunararruppadai (lit. A Poem of Recommendation to a Bard) 
was composed by Mudattamakanniar. The poet recommends Karikala 
Colan to a bard as a patron of literature. It contains 248 lines. 

2. Pattinapalai (lit. [a song of a-] City and Separation) was 
written by Uritthirankannanar. It is based on a contemplated 
separation of a husband from his wife. It is a poem of 301 lines. 

It testifies to the growing prosperity of Kaviripattinam under 
the benevolent rule of Karikala Colan. The real value of the poem 
consists in giving us an idea of the trade relations of Tamil land with 
foreign countries, its busy mart, and some administrative details of 

3. Afullaipottu (lit. A jungle Song) was written by Napoothanar. 
It is generally supposed to have been written in praise of 
Neduncheliyan. It deals with a wife separated from her husband 
who is away in the battle-field. It contains 103 lines, and is the 
shortest of the Idylls. 

4. Perumpanarruppadai (lit. A Poem of Recommendation to a 
Bard playing the larger yal) was written by the author of Pattinapalai. 
Kanchi and its king are celebrated in this Poem. It contains 500 lines. 

5. Sirupanarruppadai (lit. A Poem of Recommendation to a Bard 
playing the smaller yal) was written by Natthathanar, and celebrates 
a chieftain. It contains 269 lines. 

6. Nedunalvadai (lit. Good Long Cold Wind) was written, it is 
alleged, by the great poet, Nakkirar. Its subject-matter greatly 
resembles that of Mullaipattu. It has a fine description of the cold 
season, and contains 188 lines. 

7. Kurinchipattu (lit. A Mountain Song) was written, it is 
supposed, by another great poet, Kapilar. It speaks of love at first 
sight, in the hilly region. It contains fine descriptions of mountain 
scenery, and has 261 lines. 

It brings out the social conditions of the Tamil land in prominent 
relief. There is a legend grown round the origin of the composition 
of this poem, viz. to introduce a northern king Pirahattan to the 
beauties of Tamil literature. 

8. Maduraikanchi (lit. A Song of Madura) was written by 
Mankudi Maruthanar. It was composed in praise of the Pandyan 
king, Neduncheliyan. It contains detailed descriptions of his kingdom, 
his administration, and Madura, his capital. It is the longest of the 
Idylls containing 782 lines. 

9. Motaipodufcadam (lit. The Secretion oozing from a Hill, and 
fig. The Echo of a Mountain) was composed by Perumkausikanar, 
and celebrates Nannan, a chieftain, and his court. It has beautiful 
descriptions of mountain scenery. It contains 583 lines. 

10. Tirumurugarruppadai (lit. A Poem of Recommendation to the 
Shrine of Sacred Muruga) is supposed to have been written by 
Nakkirar. It contains description of the war-god, Muruga and his 
different shrines on the hills of South India. It depicts also the life 
of ancient Tamils. As a religious poem it is greatly valued by Saivites. 
It contains 317 lines. 

If Tamil poetry is to be restored to its pristine spontaneity 
and charm, these ancient poems should be our models. . 


These poems are valuable from another point of view. Tamil 

genius never paid much attention to the time element, and so 

historical and other documents from which we 

Historical could gain an idea of ancient Tamil life are very 

Value of , ., _ . 

Pattuppattu. much wanting. There are six sources of 

information for the reconstruction of the life of 

the people of those times : Tamil literary works, commentaries, 

accounts of foreigners, Ceylon records, inscriptions, and references 

in Sanskrit literature. Of these the most important are the Tamil 

poems of the period. Literature embalms the culture, the ideas 

and the ideals of the people of the age in which it is produced, 

and it is in its literary works that the springs of thought and actions 

of a period stand revealed. So, apart from the literary interest of 

these poems, they are a mine for reconstructing the life of the 

Tamils centuries ago. 

The Eighteen Minor Works : The next collection of the 

Sangam works comes under the general heading — the Padinen-kil- 

kanakku, the eighteen poems dealing primarily with morals 

(Tamil aram, Sans, dharma). 

They are : 


Naladiyar 7. 





Nanmani-Kadikai 8. 





Kar-narppathu. 0. 





Kalavali-narppathu 10. 






Iniathu-narppathu 11. 

Kainnilai, Innilai 




Inna-narppathu 12. 




The term kil-kanakku implies that there was a classification 
like mel-kanakku. The works that contain less than fifty stanzas, 
composed in different metres, generally come under the 
kil-kanakku. But if the venba metre is pressed into service, the 
poem can be of any length and can still find a place in kil-kanakkn. 
The mel-kanakku ranges from 50 to 500 stanzas and is in the 
ahaval, kalippa, and paripadal metres. The Ettuttogai and the 
Pattuppattu come under the category of mel-kanakku. 

Two works like the Naladiyar and the Tirukkural which come 
under the category of kil-kanakku deal with the three purusftarthas 
or objects of life, dharma or righteous living, (aram), artha or 
wealth or secular life (porul) and kama or love (inbam). The 
remaining sixteen deal both with aham and puram, the object 
aimed at being practice of dharma or morals. 

The Tirukkural (popularly known as the Muppal) is the 
famous work of the celebrated Tiruvalluvar who lived in the early 



centuries before the Christian era." The poem is in the form of 
couplets and deals with the three aims of human life — aram, porul, 
and inbam. It consists of 133 chapters, each containing ten kural- 
venbas. Each couplet is a gem by itself and conveys lofty thoughts 
couched in terse language. Though the scholarly commentary of 
the illustrious Parimelalagar — a happy consummation of Tamil 
and Sanskrit culture — is largely in use, there were nine equally 
well-known commentaries of which Manakkudavar's gloss is one,. 
Till recently, this was the only one available of the nine. Two 
others (parts) are said to have been traced since. 

A brief analysis of this universal code of morals is given 

No. of Chapters. 


Book I 
34 Chapters 


Book II 
70 Chapters 

Book III 

25 Chapters 

The Ideal Householder — Domestic Virtue • 

based on Affection. 

14 The Ideal Ascetic 

25 The Ideal Sovereign 

10 The Ideal Statesman 

22 The Ideal State 

13 The Ideal Citizen 

25 The Ideal Lover 

-Ascetic or Higher 
Virtue based on 


-Ministers of State. 
-The Essentials of a 

-Morality, Affirmative-. 

and Negative. 

-Furtive love ending 
in wedded love. 

These are the seven ideals presented by this Prince of 
Moralists. Rendered into almost every important European 
language — English, French, German, and Latin — the Kural 
presents an ideal monarchy portrayed by this Citizen of the 
World within the limits of practicality and at the same time 
outdoing the Republic of Plato and the Oceana of Harrington. 
Almost free from the influx of Sanskrit words, the Kural shows the 
richness and power of the Tamil tongue. 

We dare not say more, as an entire set of volumes can be/ 
written on this one book alone of the Tamilar. We may mention, 
in passing, that V. V, S. Aiyar has translated the work into. 

r>. p. 38. 

P. pp. 75 and 76. 


English with a keen insight into the meaning of the phrases used 
in the original. 

The Naladiyar comes nearer the Kural than the others in this 
collection in point of subject-matter including the division of the 
subjects. It also deals with the three pursuits of human life. It 
contains forty chapters, each consisting of ten stanzas. This 
"anthology, the composition of which can be attributed to different 
hands, owes its compilation to one Padumanar. 

Space forbids us from giving any detailed description of the 
contents of the rest of the Eighteen Works which mostly deal with 

It is interesting to note the swing in the themes of the works 
of the Third Sangam. The earlier books deal, like the ancient 
literature of other countries, with love and war, kings and 
chieftains, and Nature and her beauties. Slowly there is a change, 
and the Tamil writers become obsessed with ethical matters to 
the exclusion of everything else. While their writings are high 
and dignified, full of wisdom and guidance to the common man 
and savants as well, they, however, do not delight one as the 
earlier works do, and lack variety of themes. Life has turned 
inwards, and we can see in this the growing influence of certain 
trends which turned away India, at any rate the South, from a 
life of external activity and achievement to one of contemplative 

We see side by side an insidious change in the attitude to 
women. From being brave mothers, ardent lovers, proud wives, 
and life-mates sharing equally in the family and state life, we 
find that women come to be spoken of as snares and temptations, 
as something to be feared and shunned. It would not be an 
exaggeration to say that in this debasement of women lay hidden 
•the seeds of the debasement of the body politic of the people. 

The reader would have noticed that many of the works of 
the Third Sangam are collections. This is significant of the fate 
that has pursued the Tamil works from ancient times. Time, the 
sea, war, famine, white ants and nature herself to which man has 
added his quota of apathy and neglect have combined to destroy 
the works which were written on Cadjan leaves. What remained 
has been gathered within these togais — collections — by the selfless 
compilers, whose very names are not known in many cases. But 
for them, these too would have been lost for ever to us. Even as 
they are, they would still have been lost to us, but for another 

D. pp, 38 and 39. 

tflvi 'TAMIL 

great soul in this line of immortal compilers. The Tamilars have 
been laid under a great debt of gratitude by that great scholar 
and tireless compiler and learned editor of our days, Dr. U. V. 
Swaminatha Aiyar of whom we shall have to say more later on. 

x. The Epic or Post-Sangam Literature 

The chief of them are five, often referred to as Ain-perum- 
Kappiyam — the Five Major Epics. They are the Silappadikaram, 
the Manimekalai, the Jivaka Chintamani, the 
Aln-perum- Valayapati and the Kundalakesi. A pleasing 

fancy has been coined from their names in which 
the works are conceived to be five principal ornaments on the 
form of Tamil-anangu — the Tamil Muse — the works symbolising 
the tinkling anklet, the gem-studded waist-girdle, the gem on the 
chaplet, the bangles, and ear-pendants respectively. 

The last two works are entirely lost to us. We can give only 
a brief sketch of the other three works. 

Silappadikaram : Ilango-adigal is the celebrated author of the 
Silappadikaram. He was the second son of king Ceralatan reign- 
ing in the city of Vanji, the capital of the then Ceranadu and the 
younger brother of the famous king Ceran Senguttuvan. On this 
account, he was called Ilango or the younger prince and he was 
known as Ilango-adigal after his renunciation of royalty and 
assumption of holy orders. 

The story of this Epic, according to its payiram (prefatory 
verses) preaches Dharma wreaking vengeance on those who failed 
in their kingly duties ; sings the praises of the highly virtuous 
wife ; and underlines the recoil of one's actions. 

The story is simple and is as follows : 

In Kavirippumpattinam, the capital of the Colas, there lived a wealthy 
merchant named Masattuvan. He had a son Kovalan to whom was 
married a virtuous and devoted lady Kannaki by name, the daughter of 
Manaikan. Being a wealthy young man, Kovalan moved in high social 
circles and took an active interest in the amusements of the day. Once 
his eyes fell on a beautiful young dancing girl Madavi by name, on whom 
he directed his love. He Wasted all his wealth and money on this dancing 
girl and did not care for his devoted wife. When at last he had lost all 
his riches, he thought that Madavi's love towards him had cooled and 
he became disgusted. Returning home, he realised his past mistakes and 
resolved to follow the career of a merchant. The same night he left 
for Madura with his wife Kannaki. He had nothing to fall back upon 
except her jewels. She placed one of her costly Silambus — anklet— 
ungrudgingly and willingly at his disposal. He took it to the jeweller's 
market there to effect a sale. As misfortune would have it, he was 
arrested as a thief of the royal jewels. The king without inquiring into 
the facts of the case impatiently ordered his execution. It was done. 

D. pp. 70, 77 and 78. 


Poor Kannaki, when she came to know of this, became bewildered as it 
were. She went before the king and proved her husband's innocence 
beyond the shadow of a doubt. The Pandyan King Nedunjeliyan realised 
his guilt and could not bear it. He fell down from his seat broken-hearted 
and died immediately. Still Kannaki could not control herself and in a 
fit of great anger cursed that the whole city be consumed by flames. And 
so it happened. Kannaki then proceeded westward to the Malainadu (Hill 
country) and continued to do penance at the foot of a Vengai tree in the 
Neduvelkunram, a hill near Kodungolur (Cranganore) according to 

A source of information — Barring the legendary portions of 
the twin epics, the Silappadikaram and the Manimekalai are the 
unfailing sources of information for writing the history of the 
ancient Tamil-land. The first is a contribution by a royal author 
and may be relied upon for details as regards the life in courts, 
and the accounts of the kings mentioned therein. It is indeed a 
valuable mine of information for re-writing the history of the 
early Pandya, Cola, and Cera Kings. It shows the relation of the 
states with one another, not excluding North Indian states like 
Avanti and Magadha. It gives us a true picture of the social and 
religious life of the people of those days. The various fine arts, 
such as music and dancing, flourished on an extensive scale as 
literature itself did. It gives us also types of good and bad 
womanhood and the ruin of the innocent by the seduction of the 
latter. It shows how justice was rendered besides other details 
of administrative interest. These and several other things found 
mentioned are indeed valuable as throwing sufficient light on the 
history of the Tamils in the early centuries of the Christian era. 
This is a work which combines in it the three divisions of Tamil — 
Iyal, Isai, and Natakam — and Prose as well. 

The Manimekalai is a sequel to Silappadikaram, and takes up 
the story from the death of Kannaki. The scheme as well as the 
plan of the story are simple. 

While the story of the Silappadikaram is of such varied 
interest and is presented vividly like a dramatic representation, 
the story of the Manimekalai is narrowed down to the aimless 
adventures of a Buddhist Bhikshuni (nun), sectarian in outlook. 

Madavi, on hearing of the death of Kovalan, renounced the world, and 
turned a Buddhist nun. She had a daughter named Manimekalai by 
Kovalan. She too became a nun. Once Udayakumaran, the son of the 
reigning king, saw her and fell in love with her and pursued her, but 
in vain. . . . She was then taken by a goddess to Manipallavadvipa 
where were enshrined the feet of the Buddha. Here she was told that the 
prince was her husband in a previous birth. Through the grace of the 
deity she got possession of a begging bowl which would be ever full and 
never empty. 

Z>. pp. 79 and 81. 

fclviii TAMIL 

She then returned to Kavirippumpattinam and- became fully engrossed 
in doing selfless social service, assuming the disguise of one Kayasandikai. 
But Udayakumaran came to know of this her new disguise. One day the 
■real Kayasandikai herself was seen in the garden and the prince rah 
after her. This was noticed by her husband, who in a fit of jealous fury 
murdered the prince. The king had Manimekalai arrested and imprisoned 
but at the request of the queen, she was soon released. She then wandered 
throughout the land visiting several holy places. At last she settled at 
Kanchi performing penance and listening to discourses on the righteous 
laws promulgated by great teachers of various religions. The last years 
of her life were spent in that city in a Buddhist nunnery. 

Its author is Sittalai Sattanar known also as Kulavanikan 
Sattanar and Sattanar in literature. 

Sattanar seems to have been an accomplished writer. 
Simplicity of diction, easy flow of words, and a clear and 
perspicuous style, fecundity of thought, fineness of imagery, and 
richness of imagination are the chief characteristics of his writings. 
Besides the classical work Manimekalai, his contributions are to 
be found in the well-known collections of Ettuttogai. 

A source of information. Since the discovery and publication 
of the Manimekalai by Mahamahopadhyaya, U. V. Swaminatha 
Aiyar, scholars have been at work on the subject. For, apart from 
its great literary value to students of Tamil literature, it is an 
invaluable source of information to the historical students as it 
contains a wealth of details regarding the political, social, and 
religious conditions and institutions prevalent about the beginning 
of the Christian era, when, it is generally accepted, this work was 
composed. That a mass of useful material lies buried in its pages 
is accepted even by acute critics. 

Jivaka-Chintamani : The author of this work is Thirut- 
thakka-Thevar. He was born at Mailapur, and was a Jain. His 
fame rests on Jivaka-Chintamani, which, though based on a 
Sanskrit original, contains an expression of Jain doctrines and 
beliefs. Its other title, Mudi-porul-thodar-jiilai-seyyul, suggests 
that it treats of the fourfold object of life and aim of a literary 
work, viz. virtue, wealth, pleasure, and bliss. It is the story of 
Jivaka from his birth to the attainment of bliss and has a 
commentary by Nacchinarkiniar. It is in 13 books or Ilambakams 
arid contains 3145 stanzas. It is noted for its chaste diction and 
sublime poetry, rich in religious sentiment, full of reflections and 
remarks on the grounds of human action, and replete with 
information about the condition of the arts and customs of social 
life at the period of its composition. It will, therefore, interest the 
"•scholar, the poet, and the antiquary ; and there is a traditioh 

D. pp. TO and 81. P. pp. 126 and 127. 1 


current that Kamban's Ramayanam owes much of its excellence 
and many of its beauties to this memorable Epic. 

The above five works are called the Five Major Epics. There 
were also other works of which the most important are five, called 

the Five Minor Epics or Ain-Siru-Kappiam. 
Otoe Five They are Nilakesi, Sulamani, Yasothara-Kavyam, 

Nagahumara-Kavyam, and Uthayanan-Kathai. 
They are all probably the works of Jain authors. They are in 
merit and historic interest nowhere near the Five Great Epics or 
rather the three which are known to us today. 

xi. The Period of Religious Revival 

The next period in Tamil Literature, i.e., from the 6th to the 
10th century is what may be called the period of Religious Revival 
when great Bhakta poets poured forth their soul-stirring song 
offerings. Brahminism had heavily lost ground to the Buddhist 
and Jain religions and this resulted in its turn in a vigorous 
Revivalist Movement often characterised by polemics, miracles, 
conversions and persecution, and bid for royal favour. 

The outstanding literature of this period are the Tiruvasagam, 

the Tevaram, and Tiruvaymoli. The Saiva saints and the 

Vaishnava saints belong to this period. Karaikal 

' Its Literature. Ammaiyar seems to be the earliest of Saiva 

hymnists. The first three Alwars are the earliest 

of Vaishnava hymnists. Both these people developed a godly 

literature in their own way. Tamil language possesses more than 

sixteen thousand stanzas in praise of God. All these belong to 

the said five centuries. 

The Saiva saints called the Nalvar — the Four — are Manikka- 
vasagar, Tirujnana Sambandar, Appar (Tirunavukkarasu) , and 

Manikkavasagar : The life of this saint who bears a 

favourable comparison with St. Augustine, St. Paul, and St. Francis 

of Assisi and other learned saints of the West, 

Manickka- j s t0 ^ e t race< j from poetical legends which .have 


grown around that notable figure. It is even 

difficult to definitely assign to him a particular period, but still 

it is reasonable to fix it as the third 1 century a.d. His chief works 

are the Tiruvasagam and the Tirukkovai. 

i A dispute, which will probably never be settled, goes on about his 
date. Many argue that he belonged to the ninth century and followed 
Sambandar, Appar and Sundarar. What matters most, however, is his 
teaching and not his date. 

P. pp. 126 and 129. D. p.. 99. _ 4 


1 . TAMfL 

Tiruvasagam : Of these the Tiruvasagam relates an auto- 
biographical tale of the different stages of his spiritual life and 
experience which ultimately enabled him to attain enjoyment, 
ineffable and eternal. It is a torrential outflow of ardent religious 
feelings and emotions in rapturous songs and melodies. This work 
may be regarded as a convenient handbook on mystical theology. 
It is the spontaneous outpouring of his ecstatic feelings, under the 
stress of strenuous spiritual impulses. Among the accredited 
devotional works in the Tamil tongue it takes the foremost rank. 

Dr. G. U. Pope has rendered an invaluable service to Tamil 
in translating this work into English. It is difficult to find a parallel 
for this work in the other languages of the world but it would 
not be altogether inappropriate to state that the Imitation of Christ 
by Thomas A. KJe^pis parallels most closely this treasure of the 
Tamilar. One is struck again and again by the similarity of 
thought and even expression — why, even whole sentences — 
between the two books. 

Tirukkovai : The other equally remarkable work of his is 
the Tirukkovai. Superficial readers devoid of true spiritual 
acumen are apt to treat this supreme mystic work as an ordinary 
text-book of love-poetry. True, what is known in Sanskrit as the 
Srngararasa seems at first sight to dominate the whole poem. But 
it must be remembered that it is only a thin veil covering grand 
and beautiful religious truths and conceptions. 

It would not be out of place here to give the sum and substance of 
the story contained in this poem as a layman finds it. A lover accidentally 
meets a maid in some solitary mountain glade, is enamoured of her, 
approaches her and both become fast attached to each other by the silken 
bonds of love. Then they marry in public and settle down to the life 
of householders. Shortly after, one business or other necessitates the 
husband's absence in foreign countries for a shorter or longer period 
according to the nature of the business. Both feel the separation keenly, 
and look forward rather eagerly to the day when both of them should 
meet for an indissoluble union as it were. But the grief of the forlorn 
wife in her solitary home ever thinking of her absent lord, daily becomes 
more and more unbearable, and she breaks forth in piteous wail, 
expressive of the various phases of her grief. It is this grief of the lonely 
wife yearning to join her husband in warm, indissoluble embrace that 
allegorizes the earnest efforts of the individual soul seeking re-union with 
the Universal Soul. 

Men of deep intuitive insight perceive and perceive rightly, 
the highly spiritual meaning underlying this story. The Lord was 
the eternal object of his love, and Manikkavasagar himself, a lover 

p. pp. 101 and 102. x 


from the earliest days of his life. But by some accident, he has 
been long separated from the object of his love. He feels this 
separation intensely, realizes this well, and yearns for an 
indissoluble, inviolable, and irreproachable union or oneness with 
God. 1 

The Tiruvasagam and the Tirukkovai are practically free from 
any religious bias or bigotry. 

The other three saints were vigorous protagonists of the 
Saiva faith and were the spear-heads of the revivalist movement 

of the Saiva religion. They were deeply moved 
The other by the decline of their religion and the growing 

Saints. supremacy of Buddhism and Jainism and they 

dedicated their lives to fighting the apathy and 
ignorance of their people. They travelled from place to place 
throughout the length and breadth of the Tamil country, and 
everywhere they adopted a simple procedure of exhortation to the 
people to rise and be saved. They took a local temple and the 
local deity and wove their songs of mysticism and praise to the 
Lord round this nucleus. The songs were usually ten with a 
eleventh added in many cases as a ' signature ' song. The tenth is 
marked, in many cases, by direct attacks of other rival religions 
and sects. But today with the polemics a thing of the past, the 
thousands of songs in the Tevaram and the hundreds in the 
Tiruvasagam delight and uplift one and all in the Tamil-land. 

It is stated that what we have of the Tevaram is but a fragment 
of what existed long ago. These too would have been lost to 
us but for the labours of Nambi Andar Nambi, of Thiru-Narayur. 
This Tamil Vyasa who collected the Saiva hymns and grouped 
them into eleven tiru-murais lived in Cola-nadu. The last ten 
pathikams (section) of the last collection were his own. His 
Tiru-Thondar-Tiru-Antadi formed the basis of Peria-Puranam by 
Sekkilar, a remarkable and composite hagiology or lives of 
sixty-three saints in seventy-two cantos, totalling 4,286 stanzas. 

What the four Saiva saints did to the Saiva religion the 
Twelve Alwars did for the Vaishnava faith. 

i A similar significance underlying the Third Book of the Kural 
appears to have been lost sight of the course of ages. The inappro- 
priateness of the present day lay-sense attached to the chapters on ' Bliss ' 
will be seen from the fact that the fourth and final aspect of life is 
Vidu— At-one-ment, or Moksha— and the crudity of imagining that worldly 
love has been treated as the stage Just before it, cannot be over-emphasised. 

D. p. 103. 



The Alwars. 

The Twelve Alwars have been classified in different ways by 
different classifiers. The orthodox Vaishnavas hold that the 
Alwars were the incarnations of the sacred 
weapons and vehicles of Vishnu. The lives of 
the Vaishnava saints are found in Guruparamparai or the genealogy 
of the Gurus and in Alwar Vaipavam or the chronicles of Alwars 
relating the events and occurrences connected with these saints. 
Very little is known of the biographies of Poikayar, Peyar and 
Poothatthar. The names of the Alwars, the number of hymns 
sung by each, and their birth place are given below : 



__* Name. 

No. of 












Tiruppan Alwar 














Kollam (Quilon) 





Madhura Kavi 






Alwar Tirunagari 

From this list it will be seen that the largest number of hymns 
contributed to the Prabandham have been by Tirumangai Alwar 
and Nammalwar and, next to them, by Periyalwar and Tirumalisai 

Of the 4,000 making up the Vaishnava Scriptures, the first 
thousand (really 947) is known as Tiru-moli, which comprises 
the hymns of Perialwar, Andal, Kulasekhara, Tirumalisai, 
Thondaradippodi, Tiruppan, and Madurakavi ; the second thousand 
(really 1,351) known as Peria-tirumoli was the work of Tiru- 
mangai ; the third thousand (correctly 817) called lyal-pa was 
the contribution of the first three Alwars, Tirumalisai, Nammalwar, 
and Tirumangai ; and the fourth thousand (strictly 1,1 02), called 
Tiruvaymoli, was entirely the work of Nammalwar. 

The first Alwars witnessed no jarring alien faiths in their 
time ; Tirumalisai, Tirumangai and Thondar-adi-podi had enough 
of them and opposed Saivaism, Jainism and Buddhism alike. 

P. pp. 182 and 183. 


Tirumalisai, Namrnalwar, ahd Tirumarigai were fhe greatest of the 
Alwars of Vaishnava saints ; and Nammalwar lived at a time 
when the land was almost free from alien religious influences and 
when the Vaishnavas and Saivas were at peace. 

Their contributions of hymns and prayers in praise of Vishnu 
make up the Nalayirap-prdbandham also called the Divya- 
Prabandam a sacred work esteemed by the Vaishnavas as the 
second Veda. It stands on the same footing of sanctity as the 
Tevaram of the Saiva saints. Every one of the Alwars had 
personal, intuitive experience of the Divine Presence. 

When these hymns are sung or chanted, it may be said without 
fear of contradiction that nothing sweeter to the ear can be found 
in the entire range of Tamil literature and very few, if any, 
can equal their quality of lifting the soul into realms of spiritual 

The hymns sung by the Alwars were collected and arranged 
in order and published together by St. Nathamuni into one volume 
and titled the Nalayira-Prabandam or the ' Book of Four Thousand 
Hymns '. Nathamuni was a contemporary of Nambi-andar-nambi, 
— the compiler of the Tiru-murais — and he was inspired by the 
latter to do a like service to the Vaishnava hymns. 

xii. Period of Literary Revival. 

The next period in the history of Tamil literature was one of 
literary fervour. The great trio of this period were Kamban, 
Otta-kuttan and Puhalendi. We do not give any detailed account 
of Kamban and his works as there is a separate note on him in 
this book on a later page and this work of V. V. S. Aiyar is itself 
an elaborate testimony to Kamban's greatness. 

Otta-kuttan was a contemporary of Kamban and his Uttara- 
kandam winds up the Ramayanam of Kamban. He wrote the 
Eetti-elupathu and the Thakka-yaga-parani and the three Ulos on 
Rajaraja, Vikrama, and Kulottunga Colas. He was a rival to our 
great poet. If Kamban was strong in his stately viruttams and 
resembled Milton in his diction and rhythm, Otta-kuttan was a 
severe critic of poetry and an expert in making antadi, kovai and 
ula (various types of metrical compositions). 

Puhalendi was a contemporary of Otta-kuttan, "and there 
existed between them bitter rivalry throughout their lives. 
PUhalendi was famous for his wenba and his best work is the 
Nalctvenba — the 'story of Nala and Damayanti. 

llV . TAMIL 

Before we close this period we must make mention of one 
species of poetic composition of which the most famous author is 

He lived in the time of Kulotthunga Cola I, i.e., between 
a.d. 1070 to a.d. 1118 and described that emperor's conquest of 
Kalinga-nadu in Kalingatthup-parani. ' Parani ' is a type of 
poetic composition which has for its hero a warrior who has killed 
in the field of battle a thousand male elephants and describes his 
exploits with the help of the demoniac machinery. 

xiii. Tamil Prose and the Commentators. * 

(The Period of Criticism, a.d. 1200-1450) 

Our duty ends here. We have taken the reader, though 
hurriedly, through the realms of Tamil Literature. Kamban is 
a product of this great heritage, and has proudly maintained and 
handed over to his posterity this great empire, vastly enriched 
by his incomparable contribution to its wealth and fame. 

But, any essay of this sort which fails to mention Tamil Prose 
and the great commentators would have omitted one of the most 
important sections of Tamil literature and a group of scholars 
who have done the greatest service to posterity by illuminating 
the dark caverns of ancient literature where lie the priceless 
treasures of Tamil. They have not merely illuminated the grottos 
but have excavated it, cleaned the treasures, and have arranged 
them in an imperishable museum along with a wealth of 
information which for learning and research can scarcely be 

The reader would have heard often and from many sources 
that there was no Tamil Prose at all in the olden days. Such 
criticism comes from a lack of research and of appreciation of 
what constitutes prose. 

Now the question arises ' what is prose ? ' Th3 ordinary 
definition of Prose is ' the common language of men unconfined 
to poetical measures'. In this sense, of course, almost all our 
old prose writings are no prose ; for example, let us examine the 
prose passages in the ancient epic Silappadikaram ; the rules of 
scansion can very well be applied and they can be brought under 
the general heading of the Tamil metre called Asiriappa. 

1 This section is chiefly composed of a series of extracts from History 
of the Tamil Prose Literature, an excellent thesis by V. S. Chengalvaraya 
Filial, m.a. 


- The- definition which Coleridge gives of Prose may serve our 
purpose here. Coleridge has said, " I wish our clever young poets 
would remember my homely definitions of Prose and Poetry, that 
prose is ' words in their best order ', poetry ' the best words in 
their best order'. As the medium in which the Poet works is 
language, execution in his case is the arrangement of the best 
words in the best order, the best order being in all but a few 
anomalous cases, a rhythmical one. The technical laws of verse, 
however, deal only with ' the best order '. There remain as a part 
of execution ' the best words '. This section of the definition 
covers all the intellectual propriety, the moral passion, the verbal 
felicity, the myriad charms and graces of which ' the best order ' 
is but the vehicle." Now applying this definition to our ancient 
prose, we may safely assert that it comes under the compass of 
Prose ; for, there we find ' words in their best order ' but not 
' best words in their best order '. Hence, prose passages where 
we discern only poetic flow are all to be included in the province 
of prose. 

It is noticeable that even the prose writings in the commenta- 
ries have always a tinge of poetic flow in them ; and, in fact, the 
Tamil writers ancient as well as modern have had a great taste 
for this peculiar style and most of the commentators including the 
commentator on Irayanar Agapporul, Nacchinarkkiniyar, 
Parimelalagar, and Adiyarkkunallar very often indulged in making 
use of this peculiar style. This style, which is peculiar to Tamil, 
does not in any way mar the excellence of good prose ; on the 
other hand, our pleasure is enhanced when we read passages which 
have the balanced poetic flow. 

The Tamil word for Prose is Urai-Nadai which means ' the 
speech on foot ' ; and it will be interesting to observe that the 
Latin expression Oratio pedestiris for Prose means also ' speech 
on foot ', i.e. ' the language that walks and does not profess to 
fly ' ; and as this was the style that could possibly be used in 
writing commentaries, they were also given the name of ' Vrai ' : 
and Tamil Prose has had its origin mainly, if not solely, in 
commentaries. We have no grounds for asserting that there were 
separate prose works before the beginning of the 17th century: 
That commentary was not the only province of prose in our ancient 
literature, we may boldly assert ; for, prose was used in a parti- i 
cular species of composition, the characteristic feature of which is 
called ' Tonmai ' — narration of ancient story — and it almost, 
corresponds to the Epic Poetry. The Tonmai composition, like the 

lvi TAMIL 

epic, " is one of the earliest poetical forms in which the primitive 
imagination has found expression. The 238th sutram of Seyyul 
Iyal in Tolkappiyam, defines its characteristics. 

Sllappadikaram has some fine examples of prose though it is 
comparatively very small. The truth of the statement that " the 

best of prose is often poet's prose because the 
Prose In the poets' mind is stored with good choice of figures 

Period. anc * h as a ^ so a disciplined habit in the use of 

them" may be noticed in Ilangovadigal's prose. 
The felicity of expression is markedly outstanding ; and the 
passages have a thorough poetic flow, with alliterations and rhyme. 

The Uraiperu Katturai (speech in prose) is the only prose 
portion of the work. The passages which are called Uroippottu, 
and Uroippottu nadai, have the least claims to be included in the 
province of prose. 

During this period, the Jain ascendancy was pronounced ; 
and its influence on the Tamil Literature was equally great. 
. Most of the Jain Epics were written at this 
Post-Sangam time. 

to A.D. 500. The works of this period are the Jain prose 

works of the ' mongrel sort of diction ', known 
as Manipravalam style, which is pleasing neither to the purely 
Tamil nor the purely Sanskrit ear ; of these prose works, Sri 
Puranam and Gadya Chintamani deserve mention. 

As there is not even a single prose-writer who belonged 

Medieval Period to this period, we shall have to notice only 

JSS*^ 1 ^ *° commentators and their commentaries. 

1200 A.D. 

Their period has been called the Reformatory Period. We 

may as well call it the period of commentators. It is a 

remarkable fact in the history of the Tamil 


Commentators Literature that commentaries have been, 

and their prose from a very long time, occupying a pro- 

A S 1450 t0 minent place. Following the Tamil Grammar 

Tolkappiyam, we include commentaries also in 

the province of prose. 

Commentaries in Tamil have been divided from of old into 
Kandigai and Virutti, compendious and elaborate. The former 
explains the text and the latter, in addition to explanation, 


criticises, arid supplements it, and weighs the value of other 
commentaries with it. 

Ilampuranar was admittedly the first in point of time to 

annotate Tholkappiyam and is spoken of as ' the annotator '. 

Perasiriyar was the author of a commentary on Tiru-Chitt- 
Ambalak-kovai, or, shortly, Tirukkovaiyar, by Manikkavasagar. 
From Nacchinarkiniar's commentaries we are led to infer that he 
wrote a commentary on Tholkappiyam .and Kurunthokai. He is 
quoted by Nacchinarkiniyar in his commentary on Tholkappiyam 
(Aham 36). 

His style is grammatical, graphic and simple. This is the 
best specimen of elegant and simple prose. 

Sena-Varaiyar wrote a commentary on Words (Sol) in 
Tholkappiyam, which was called Sena-Variyam after the author. 

His prose style is not so simple as that of Nacchinarkiniyar. 

Nacchinarkiniyar was the greatest and most popular of 
commentators. His commentaries are always Viruttis or elaborate 
ones. In his commentaries good prose writing is found. He was 
the first to comment on the whole of Tolkappij/am, and the 
commentary bears his name — JVacchinarktniam. Besides Tolkap- 
piyam, Pattupattu, Kalitthokai, Jivaka Chinthamani, and twenty 
stanzas of Kurunthokai were annotated and commented on by 
Nacchinarkiniar, who always brought to bear on the great works 
he had chosen to annotate his clear and impartial mind, his vast 
erudition and his minute and critical observation. To quote the 
Rev. Dr. Bower : " His (Nacchinarkiniar's) comments are very 
much on the plan of European annotations. He paraphrases the 
text, and points out grammatical peculiarities ; he quotes 
Tolkappiya sutrams throughout, explains obsolete terms, and gives 
the various readings which existed in his day " 

His style is simple and fine ; the occasional poetic flow, the 
balance of style, and the unembarrassed flow of diction are the 
outstanding features of his writings and it may well be said that 
good prose writing commences with Nacchinarkiniyar. 

Adiyarkunallar is known to us as the commentator of 
Silappadikaram. He lived about the latter half of the 12th 
century, after Jayamkondan, from whose Parani he has often 
quoted in this commentary. He was a great authority on the 

P., p. aw. 

lviii TAMIL 

ancient Tamil classics. The work which he undertook to annotate 
was a very difficult one ; for, Silappadikaram is not a mere Iyal 
Tamil composition ; one who undertakes to annotate it should have 
a clear knowledge of the three branches of Tamil literature, lyal, 
Jsai and Natakam. 

His prose sentences are often long, and they, now and then, 
have the poetic flow. His style is always clear. 

Pari-mel-Alakar was a famous commentator of ' Tirukkural' 
and as he was a great Sanskrit scholar as well, his commentary 
is very valuable for its wealth of illustration and parallel quota- 
tions. His style is lucid and very suggestive. 

His prose, unlike that of Nacchinarkiniyar, is very terse and 
in some places too brief to be easily intelligible. There is one 
thing very remarkable about his style in this commentary. Like 
the style of the great Poet whose work he had taken to annotate, 
his style also is so much compressed in form that one word in a 
sentence cannot be removed or substituted without at the same 
time damaging the compactness of the style. Not a single word 
he uses unnecessarily. The quotations he gives are very apt ; in 
his whole commentary on the Kural he gives quotations from about 
twenty select works. His style gets often poetical in its flow, as 
it cannot but become so, when its master seeks after compression 
of expression. 

xiv. Modern Period (after A.D. 1450) 

It is not our design nor will the space at our disposal permit 

us to deal with the Tamil literature of the Modern Period, i.e; 

from the 13th century onwards. If we did, we 

L f U th nar,eS sha11 have t0 speak of tnem wno are called Tne 

Modern Period. Lesser Trio — Kalamegam, famous for invectives 
in poetry ; the Twins, a lame man on the 
shoulders of his blind companion who laughed at the world in 
their inspired poems, two lines of which one of them will sing and 
the other will cap it with another two ; and Padikkasu Pulavar. 

Mention shall have to be made also of the spiritual successors 
of the lineage of the Four Saiva Saints, viz., Arunagiriyar, 
Pattinattar, Kumaraguruparar, Thayumanavar, and Ramalinga 
Swamigal. . 

There were many outstanding Muslim scholars and poets in 
this time whose works have enriched the Tamil literature. 


Gopalakrishna Bharati has a separate niche in the hearts of 
the Tamilar. 

The last and greatest literary product of the modern times 
will require a volume for himself, and in fact volumes have been 
written about him — our patriot and poet Subbramanya Bharati, 
who was responsible fpr the present day cultural and emotional 
resurgence in the south. 

No one can speak of the Modern Period and not speak of the 
selfless group of European scholars who had done so much for 

Tamil, viz., research and classification of the 
f U h°i Pean ancient literature and grammar. Dr. Beschi, 

Rev. Caldwell, Dr. G. U. Pope, Rev. Lazarus, 
Rev. Drew, Rev. Ellis and others have laid the Tamilar under a 
debt of eternal gratitude. To this noble band belongs the Rev. 
H. A. Popley who lives amongst us today and is well-known for 
his musical compositions on the Christian faith on the lines of 
Kirtans. But we dare not venture into this tempting field. 

The Thembavani is an Epic of the Life of Christ which we owe 
to this school of foreign scholars. 

Tamil fell into evil days in the modern period. The patrons 
of Tamil literature, the line of Kings of Pandya, Cola and Cera 

Kingdoms had vanished. The land has fallen 
Tamil" °' under alien rule. The debasement of the people 

and their culture was complete. They came 
even to be ashamed of their language and went so far as to call 
the ancient literature as unintelligible nonsense, and dismissed the 
chaste style of these treasures with a sneer. They went further 
and destroyed either wantonly or through superstitious beliefs or 
through ignorance the records on cadjan leaves. 

In such straits, the Tamil Mutts or matams saved the priceless 
treasures for us. It is difficult to find an exact parallel to 

these institutions in other countries. They may 
The Matams. be classed as monasteries with a head to 

each who is in charge by authority of 
spiritual succession. 

The monasteries were the repositories of learning. Founded 
five or six centuries ago, for the diffusion of Tamil learning and the 
Saiva faith, they made a vigorous attempt to preserve old cadjan 
volumes against the ravages of time and the wild and ruthless 
persecutions of the Muhammadan invaders. 


The most important of these fnatams are the ThiruVavadu- 
thurai, Dharmapuram and in later days Thirupanandal. All of 
them have rendered and continue to render noble service to Tamil 
and Saiva religion. They maintain oriental colleges, support 
scholars and authors, and publish all the important literary 
and religious literature. It may be said that but for them 
many of our ancient works could never have come down 
to us. Latterly, these matams have taken to a new approach to 
the propagation of Tamil literature and Saiva doctrines. They 
now publish most of the ancient writings with English and Hindi 
translations. The amount of ignorance prevailing in India outside 
the Tamil-land about the heritage and culture of the Tamilar has 
to be seen to be properly assessed. The Saiva matams have earned 
the gratitude of all Tamilar and other well-wishers of Tamil 
and its literature. 

It is from these repositories, and from private homes that 
Dr. U. V. Swaminatha Aiyar was able to trace out the ancient 
classics and numerous other notable works of Tamil literature. 
The people of India are wont to call great souls as the avatar of 
God Himself. It is as if the Tamil-anangu — The Tamil Muse — 
herself incarnated as this Tamil scholar, research student, tireless 
collector, compiler, and editor and publisher. Born of a poor 
family, educated almost by charity, meagrely paid for most of his 
life, with nothing but the generosity of friends (large in the wish 
to help but poor in ability to do so), this untiring savant brought 
out eighty-works, large and small, in his eighty-four years 
of life. 

xv. Our Days 

We have shown enough elsewhere to disprove the casual 
criticism that there was no prose in the olden days of Tamil. The 

attitude of mind behind this criticism and the 
Prose n ** d * y ignorance it reveals is responsible for the state 

of Modern Tamil Prose, regarding which we 
cannot do better than quote l from a short article called " Tamil 
Prose Today" by Mr. N. Raghunatha Iyer, Assistant Editor'. 
The Hindu, Madras, which appears in the Bharati Jayanti Souvenir 
(December, 1949) of the Bharati Tamil Sangam, Calcutta. 

* By kind permission of the author and the BharaH Tamil Sangam, 

the language; and literature lxi 

He writes: — "I have lately had to read large quantities of 
recent Tamil prose in certain allied genres 

" .... In quality this new literature leaves much to be desired. 
Imperfect assimilation of Western ideas and insufficient command over 
the medium of expression 1 combine to produce on the reader's mind 
the effect of a rather unsatisfactory translation, not the impact of 
an authentic piece of literature 

"... There is a certain thinness of substance noticeable parti- 
cularly in the academic type of criticism. A little learning is sought 
to be spread over a vast area .... 

" When one turns to what may be called the literature of know- 
ledge, two things are seen to stand out prominently, an immense zest 
and an almost equally immense inexperience 

" The chief handicap is the absence of an agreed vocabulary of 
technical terms and the lack of a real mastery of the chosen subject 
on the part of all but a few of those who appear in the role of 

i There is a class of writers today which does not consider a knowledge 
of either the ancient Tamil literature or the rules of grammar as essential 
to their calling. It jeers at grammar and thinks that it has delivered 
the coup-de-prace to it by saying that the name Nan-nool {The Good 
Rules) has been given to the Tamil grammar as an euphemism and that 
it should have been called the Vile Rules. This class of writers may well 
benefit by the extracts we quote below from English — A Course for Human 
Beings by Eric Partridge. He says : 

" Grammar results from mankind's attempt to speak and 

write coherently and, by speaking or writing clearly, to make language 
easier to understand ; in a few words, it enables us to communicate with 
others, others with us. Grammar forms a notable aid to speaking, writing, 
listening ; in short, to communication. More : without grammar, we should 
have difficulty in understanding anything except the simplest messages or 

" Only a fool is content to remain ignorant of the tools or instruments 
he is using ; only a fool thinks it unnecessary to understand the words 
he is using. This being so, you will And it useful — you will, indeed, find 
it necessary — to bear constantly in mind the relationship between speaker 
and hearer, hence the only slightly less important relationship between 
writer and reader. 

" We can never hope to understand what language is and how it 
progresses (or doesn't) unless we remember that language is primarily 
the inter-activity of speech and hearing, and that writing is, in a sense, 
speech at second hand. Grammar is that wonderful and invaluable set of 
means and devices whereby we can render our words significant and 
make our ideas pass easily, from within ourselves, to other persons. 
Language is the vehicle, the carrier, of our thoughts and feelings and of 
our stories, whether true or imagined ; grammar is the machinery by 
which that vehicle is set and kept in motion ; the motive power (the 
Steam, the electricity, the turbine) is the mind ; and the speech-sounds, 
or the printed page, are the air and space through which the vehicle 


ixil TAMIL 

" . . .A standard literary language is yet to be evolved. Those 
writers who were brought up in the Pandit tradition but wish to 
stand well with the new public too often merely achieve drabness 
in trying to shed their pedantry 

"There is a rude vigour in the writings of polemists; but too 
many of them take a childish delight in such verbal tricks as allitera- 
tion, assonance and puns. While there is definitely a place in litera- 
ture for the genuine regional dialect, too often does the slovenliness 
that comes of pure ignorance do duty for realism. Journalese and 
portmanteau language have a strange fascination for the half-educated. 
And the extent to which the average Tamil writer who has a rudi- 
mentary knowledge of English has had his syntax corrupted is 

Exceptions, there are to this sorry state, as to anything else 
in this world, but one speaks here of the general state of prose 
today as a whole and not of those rare authors who are responsible 
for the very little excellent prose of these days. 

To name but a few, Mr. P. Sundaram Pillai, Mr. Vedanayagam 
Pillai, Mr. A. Madhaviah, Mr. V. Kalyanasundaram Mudaliar, Rao 
Bahadur P. Sambanda Mudaliar, Mr. R. P. Sethu Pillai, Mr. K. V. 
Jagannathan, Dr. Seshadrinathan, Mr. Swaminatha Sarma, 
Dr. Varatharajan, Mr. Gnanasambandam, Mr. C. N. Annathurai, 
Mr. Ganapati Aiyar, Mr. C. Rajagopalachari and a few others are 
the outstanding prose writers of the present day. 

Dr. U. V. Swaminatha Aiyar, the great editor and scholar 
has left a wealth of excellent prose writings, and his unfinished 
Autobiography is one of the best of its type. 

The mention of Dr. Swaminatha Aiyar will recall to mind his 
great teacher the late Minakshisundaram Pillai, and Aiyar's friend 
Thiagaraja Chettiar whose names occur again and again in Aiyar's 

Namakkal Ramalingam Pillai, the poet-laureate of Madras is 
another autobiographer of merit. 

At the present day, prose predominates over poetry of which 
very little is written. Such poetic works are breaking new ground 
and it is too early to judge their worth and excellence. 

xvi. Conclusion 

Our object in compiling this brief survey is to make known 
to the wider world of India and abroad, in as adequate a manner 
as the small compass of this work will allow, the glories of Tamil 
people and their literature. 

*He language And literature ixiii 

We have used the word ' compiled ' advisedly. Nothing, or 
very little of the contents of this essay can claim any originality. 

We have merely strung together on page after 
Acknowledge- page extracts from various writers, chiefly from 

' Tamil Studies ' by M. Srinivasa Aiyangar, m.a., 
' Tamil Literature ' by M. S. Purnalingam Pillai, b.a., l.t., and 
' Studies in Tamil Literature and History ' by V. R. Ramachandra 
Dikshitar, m.a. We tender our grateful thanks and sincere 
apologies to these writers, their successors and publishers for the 
liberty we have taken in so profusely using their works — nay, in 
compiling this essay almost entirely with verbatim extracts from 
these works. 

We are also indebted to many friends who have guided 
us with suggestions and material, chief among whom is 
Mr. G. Thiagarajan of Tanjore who lent us his unpublished notes 
and essays, and several books out of his library for compiling this 


used in 

Books Consulted 
Books in English — 

1. Tamil Studies (First Series) T.S. 

By M. Srinivasa Aiyangar, m.a. 

2. Studies in Tamil Literature and History D 

By V. R. Ramachandra Dikshitar, m.a. 

3. The Ancient Dravidians S 

By T. S. Sesha Iyengar, m.a., 

M.R.A.S., F.R.H.S. 

4. Tamil Literature P 

By M. S. Purnalingam Pillai, b.a., l.t. 

5. History of the Tamil Prose Literature C 

By V. S. Chengalvaraya Pillai. 

6. Pattupattu (Translated into English Verse) Ch. 

By J. V. Chelliah, m.a. 


Books in Tamil — 

1. History of the Tamil Language 

By V. G. Suryanarayana Sastriar, b.a. 

2. Tamil Varalaru 

By K. S. Srinivasa Pillai. 

Books Recommended for Study 

1. Manual of the Geology of India 

By R. D. Oldhame. 

2. Human History 

By G. E. Smith. 

3. Caste and Tribes of Southern India 

By E. Thurston. 

4. People and Problems of India 

By Sir T. W. Holderness. 

5. Ancient Indian History and Civilization 

By R. C. Majumdar. 

6. A History of India 

By C. S. Srinivasa Chari & M. S. Ramaswami. 

7. The Origin and Philosophy of Language 

By Ludwig Noire. 

Reprints of this essay are available at Re. 1/- eateh copy, postage extra. 
A few copies only have been printed. 


Kamban, the author of the Ramayana in Tamil, which is the 
subject of critical study in this work by V. V. S. Aiyar lived 
in the IX Century a.d. l He was born in Tiruvazhundur in the 
Cola country. His father was Athavan, a priest by caste. Kamban 
appears to have been a poet in the court of the Cola and Cera 
Kings, but his steadfast patron was Sadayappan of Tiruvennai- 
nallur whose name is referred to in ten places in Kamba 

Kamban was a devotee of Nammalvar, one of the famous 
Vaishnavite saints and poets. Kamba Ramayanam was composed 
by him about the eight hundred and eighties and according to 
the procedure of those days was recited by him for approval to 
an audience of the literary elite — a sort of Academy of Letters 2 
— assembled in Srirangam in the month of Panguni (March-April) 
of the year 807 3 of the Salivahana Sakabda (885 a.d.) on the full- 
moon day when the star Uttaram was in the ascendant. 4 Kamban 
was acclaimed by the assembly as the Kavichakravarti — the 
Emperor of the Realms of Poesy — a title which every succeeding 
generation has been but confirming ever since. 

Many are the stories which have come down to us in poems 
and by word of mouth about Kamban's difficulties before he had 
his work approved, about his spirit of independence and poetic 
hauteur and about the jealousies and intrigues of his contemporary 
poets ; but fact and fiction have so intermingled in these anecdotes 
that it is impossible to separate them today. They, however, 
bear evidence to the high veneration in which Kamban was 
and is held to this day in Tamil-land. 

We should not omit to mention that in his work of over ten 
thousand and five hundred stanzas of four lines each, there are 
many interpolations too difficult to identify, though a hundred 
of them are now known to have been inserted by one Velliambala 
Thambiran. These interpolations, however, have not detracted 
the generations of Tamilians from their undying love for this 
great work. 

His other works are said to be 

Sadagopar-antadi, Silaiyezhupathu, 

Aerezhupathu, Saraswathi-antadi. 

i Some say the XII Century. 

2 Mushairas ard Kavi-sammelans of these days. 

3 The original poems allow an interpretation to mean 1107 instead of 

4 The Anniversary Day of the wedding of Shri Rama and Sita. 


V. V. & AIYAR 

born his father's first son, on 2nd April 1881, in a village near 
Karur in the Trichinopoly District of the Madras Province. His 
father Venkatesa Aiyar had settled at Varaganeri, a suburb of 
Trichinopoly, and in his retired days was resisting mass conversion 
of the Harijans to Christianity and was arranging for their 
reconversion to the Hindu fold. 

V. V. S. Aiyar, whom we shall hereafter mention as Aiyar 
for short, matriculated at the early age of twelve ranking fifth 
in the Presidency^; and was married the same year ; and 
graduated when r. but sixteen. His college-mates relate his 
annoying patience during discussions and controversies and his 
smiling away all opposition in the College Free Thinkers' Society, 
his drinking deep from Spencer and Spinoza, Milton and Moliere, 
and of his being the favourite of all his professors. 

When twenty, he was to be seen practising as a lawyer at 
the Trichinopoly Bar ; and five years later, he sailed to Rangoon 
to seek his fortune in Burma. But within a year he was bound 
for England to become a barrister. 

London : Master of Latin, he came out first in Roman Law 
and " was an all round brilliant student ". Nearly three years 
had rolled by and he was soon to return to India as an ambitious 
barrister to make fabulous fortunes, but Destiny was shaping 
him for quite a different life. 

Wrote his associate : — 

" In 1907, the maid-servant at the famous India House 
in London handed a visiting card to us and presently a 
gentleman neatly dressed and inclined to be fashionable 
warmly shook hands with us, and told us that he came over 
to London to qualify himself as a full-fledged barrister. ... 
He assured us of his intention to study English music and if 

possible also English dance as well We entered our 

mild protest against thus dissipating the energy of one's youth 
in light-hearted pastimes. . . . The gentleman, unconvinced, 
i, though impressed, took our leave, promising to continue to 
call on us every now and then. HE WAS SJT. V. V. S. 

"In 1910, we stood as a prisoner in London Brixon Jail. 
The warder announced, visits and ajuciously we accompany 



•••■ the file of prisoners to the yard j , we stand behind -the bats; 
wondering who could have come to call on us and thus invite 
the unpleasant attention of the London Police. Presently a 
dignified figure enters the box in front of us. It was V. V. S. 
AIYAR. His beard was closely waving on his breast. He 
was unkempt. He was no longer the neatly dressed fashion- 
able gentleman. His whole figure was transformed with 
some great act of dedication of life " 

Aiyar and Gandhiji : Diwali, the universal festival of 
rejoicing in the whole length and breadth of India, has a special 
significance to the South Indian. Aiyar and his companions in 
India House at London were anxious to celebrate the Diwali in 
Indian style as far as it was practicable in England, and Aiyar 
went seeking leading Indian after Indian in London to grace the 
occasion. But he met with no success. Aiyar heard that one 
Mr. Gandhi, a man of new ways, had come to London to represent 
the case of Indians in South Africa. After searching for him in 
the luxurious hotels and similar rendezvous of fashionable Indians 
of those days he found him in a humble home and invited him 
to preside over the celebrations. Gandhiji made searching 
enquiries about the mode of celebrations and when he was assured 
that it would be in purely Indian style he readily agreed. This 
was the first occasion on which Aiyar met Gandhiji. With his, 
revolutionary zeal, Aiyar did not want to miss the opportunity 
of pressing his views on the rising leader. He spoke to him 
with vehemence about the revolutionary creed as the only 
possibility of winning independence for India. Gandhiji in turn 
preached him his newly-found satyagraha. Aiyar returned 
feeling naively confident that two or three more pep talks by 
him to Gandhiji would convince him and bring him to his way 
of thinking. 

Aiyar was away when Gandhiji came to India House. The 
other .companions of Aiyar, who were busy cooking, saw a thin, 
simply-dressed poor Indian and immediately pressed him into 
service and allotted him all the more menial jobs in the 
kitchen. Aiyar returned to the house to find the principal guest 
of the evening employed in the kitchen. He made profuse 
apologies to Gandhiji but he put him at his ease with his winning] 
smile and heartily joined in the celebrations. 

The Die is Cast : The moment came when he was to be 
called to the Bar. But he firmly refused to take the oath of. 

lxviii V. V. S. AIYAR 

allegiance to the King, whom he would not recognise as the King 
of his country as well. Such was his irrevocable decision to 
completely dedicate his life for the cause of Indian freedom. 

London to Amsterdam : This was sufficient proof of the 
volcano he was, and an urgent warrant was issued to arrest this 
fiery anarchist. During the night, the C.I.D. Police had occupied 
situations in the Hotel in which Aiyar resided, to take him away 
in the morning. Aiyar, scenting this, as a Jean Valjean, left the 
hotel at midnight, taking with him the barest necessities, and 
among them the volumes of Kamba Ramayana were to be found : 
such was his love for Kamban from whom he would not part 
even in such perilous times. 

A broad intellectual forehead, a bold aquiline nose, a strong 
athletic form and a majestic beard adding colour to the arresting 
personality — yet the spy of the Scotland Yard was certain that 
this was the " South Indian Brahmin revolutionary " he was to 
arrest, his appearance like a Punjabi Sikh notwithstanding ; and 
to fix the identity he handed over a telegram to V. V. S. Aiyar. 
With an uncanny presence of mind, Aiyar immediately returned 
the telegram unopened to the C.I.D. man stating that he was 
delivering it to the wrong addressee. The official was quick to 
point out the inscription ' V.V.S.' on Aiyar's handbag, and quicker 
was Aiyar to reply " Yes ! My name is Veer Vikram Singh ". 
The sleuth had to go away quietly. 

Paris to Pondicherry : Crossing the Channel was not the 
end of the trouble. The British Secret Police in France were 
censoring all his letters, and the moment he entered any British 
territory he was to be taken into custody. Aiyar was constantly 
writing to his father of his desire to settle in Brazil where land 
was rich and plentiful, instead of going to India where he might 
be arrested and jailed. Could not his father, Aiyar asked, 
arrange for a hundred hardworking South Indian families to go 
with him to Brazil and colonise that country. 

On a certain morning of November 1910, news reach the 
Government and the family of his presence at Pondicherry ! And 
neither could believe it. The ruse was this : a bundle of letters 
in Aiyar's handwriting to his father and relatives was handed 
over by Aiyar to one of his friends in Paris to be posted every 
week, and this fixed the attention of the British authorities in 
Trance to Paris and to the ship routes to Rio de Janeiro. 

In a few days a certain Muslim gentleman was swiftly passing 
through Italy and Greece, Turkey and Egypt. He was very devout, 


constantly writing from the KURAN, and performing Namaz 
live times a day on the ship's deck. The ship touches Bombay, 
Colombo, and Tuticorin before he alights at Pondicherry harbour. 
Within a few hours, telegrams signed " V. V. S. Aiyar " are handed 
at the post office by this very same " muslim gentleman " inform- 
ing the British Government of his presence in French India. 

Aiyar was then just 29 years of age. 

Pondicherry : Aiyar's life at Pondicherry for ten years from 
1910 to 1920 is so fully packed with thrilling exploits, 
imperturbable courage in the face of worst dangers, and brilliant 
achievements in literature, that it is difficult to detail them all 
in this short sketchy note. And in all his revolutionary activities 
and literary work, we may mention, his wife was a source of 
constant help. Smuggling of revolvers, proscribed literature, 
arms and ammunitions to British India was a mere routine. 

A versatile linguist knowing Latin, Greek, German, Persian, 
Urdu, Sanskrit, Hindustani, Telugu and Canarese, etc., Aiyar soon 
mastered French to study Napoleon's War Memoirs in the 
original ; and wrote a synthetic treatise on military strategy, 
adapting Napoleon's method of warfare for a war against the 
British rulers. Lokamanya Tilak sent his nephew to Aiyar to 
copy down the manuscript and Aiyar had to send him back in 
the guise of a gypsy to save the manuscript and the messenger 
from the secret police. 

Desiring to prepare a background of revolutionary mentality 
among his countrymen, Aiyar wrote Tamil biographies of 
Napoleon, Garibaldi, Mazzini, Rana Pratap Singh, Chandra Gupta, 
etc., and wrote some excellent short stories as well. 

Finding it impossible to dislodge Aiyar from Pondicherry by 
fair or foul means, the British Government took advantage of 
the Great War of 1914-18 and made the French Government 
believe that Aiyar was secretly communicating with the EMDEN 
which was then scouring the Bay of Bengal. Although these 
false allegations could not be proved, still as an ally of the British, 
the French Government agreed to deport Aiyar to Algiers in 
Africa. In order to gain time, Aiyar started a round of negotia- 
tions and wanted to leave something behind him to keep his 
memory green among his countrymen. Translation of the Tamil 
Classic — KURAL — into English was decided on as his best legacy 
for the country. It was on 1st November, 1914 he put his pen to 
paper. Day after day he pounded away at the translation, every 

bqc. V. V, 6. AIYAR 

evening thinking that he might be deported the next morning, 
On 1st March, 1915, the manuscripts were ready for the press. 
Though completed in such perilous circumstances -and haste, 
Aiyar's translation is considered the best even today. 

Second Meeting with Gandhiji : Gandhiji came in 1917 to 
Pondicherry and Aiyar met him for the second time. To this 
date, Aiyar had not forsworn his belief in revolutionary methods, 
but when Gandhiji met him it was a case of ' veni, vidi, vici.' 
Gandhiji came, saw him, and conquered him. Aiyar became a 
convert to the principles of Ahimsa and he who never went about 
without a revolver in his possession, now exchanged it for the 
Tofcti. To his dying day he remained true to his new religion 
and there were often moments when his closest friends wished 
that he was not such a staunch devotee of Ahimsa. 

Back to the Indian Scene : The general amnesty of 1920 
saw Aiyar an editor of a Tamil daily newspaper at Madras. But 
he was soon to spend nine months in Bellary Central Jail during 
1921-22 on a charge of sedition. It was in those nine months of 
prison life that Aiyar wrote his Magnum Opus — A STUDY OF 
KAMBA RAMAYANA — which we now offer to the lovers of 
literature today. 1 

Aiyar needed some books for consultation and we translate 
here the letter he wrote to a friend in Benares. 

He said : 

"Dear brother, you would have come to know of my 
stay here through the newspapers. I have still six more 
months to stay here. I expect they would pass just as the last 

three months have passed — in literary work You could 

do me a service. I am writing a Study of Kamban. I require 
in this connection Griffith's English translations of Valmiki* 
and Tulsidas 3 Ramayanams and I also require As J 

i Between the leaves of Aiyar's rough manuscripts was found a faded 
cutting from a newspaper quoting records in daily or weekly cutout of 
writing by famous authors. Dr. Johnson's Rasselas of a little more 20,000 
words produced in a week, Mark Twain's 4,000 words a day, Stevenson, 
Du Maupassant, Balzac, Hutchinson of "If Winter Comes" fame, Oppen- 
heim and Wells have inspired Aiyar. His manuscripts show dates and 
numbers of words written each day. In nine months of prison life, with 
its. unbending routine, Aiyar lags not far behind these masters with hi* 
work of a little over 140,000 words, more than a third of which sure Ssa 
ln-verse. " ' 

* The author of the original Ramayana in Sanskrit. 

s The author of the Hindi rendering of the Ramayana. 

' ' A Life sketch fecxi 

cannot think of any one else who could get them for me, and 
as at present I have very little money, and as these books 
will be available in Benares only, I have to trouble you. As 
soon as I come out of prison I shall pay you the price." More 
follows with a list of the books and where they will be 
available. He continues : " I have finished nearly a hundred 
pages of the work. I am now at present writing the 
character study of Lakshmana. 1 I expect the book to run to 
about five hundred pages. Wherever I have quoted any poems 
from Kamban I am trying to translate them' in verse as far 
as possible. I hope that this work will reveal the glories 
of Kamban to the scholars in North India and to those 
Tamilians who have forgotten their Tamil. My address is 
V. V. S. Aiyar, No. 65, Central Jail, Bellary." 

The Last Phase : Released from jail, Aiyar again plunged 
into the vortex of his work. After a short swift tour of India, 
Aiyar started an Ashram at Shermadevi, Tinnevelly District in 
1922-23, called the TAMIL GURUKULAM, where the pupils and 
the teachers ploughed the fields and reaped the harvest, laid 
bricks and built huts, weaved cloth, printed books and magazines, 
did carpentry and gardening, learnt self-defence, archery, sword 
fights, etc. Aiyar's ambition was to create a race of Tamilians 
similar to the Sikhs of the Punjab, and he wrote a biography of 
Guru Gobind Singh to instil the ideals in the minds of his 

The Heroic End : It was 10 a.m., 3rd June, 1925. The sun 
was shining with all its splendour. The Kalyan-Thirtha Falls 
was roaring at a distance with a majestic voice amidst a scene of 
great beauty and charm. Aiyar joined the party of pupils he 
had sent two days ago from the Ashram for a visual education 
trip. All went up the hill and Aiyar was helping the safe passage 
of the students across the proximal side of the falls. Aiyar's 
daughter, Subhadra, insisted on her crossing the river, just as 
the others, but as Fate would have it, she tripped into the deep 
fast current with the cry, " Father ! Father ! " — and within the 
fraction of a second Aiyar had jumped into the stream not a bit 
thinking about the consequences and he almost held his daughter 
by her locks, but only to find it slipping away, and in a few 

l A fac-simile of a part of the first page of the manuscripts of this 
chapter is reproduced opposite. Note the seal of the Bellary Central 
Jail, and the calculations of words to a page, and the probable number 
t>f printed pages of the size of a page of his Kurort. 


moments both were submerged in the hungry waters of the 

Thus ended in but 44 years one of the most momentous of 
lives. . 

" How we long to write of the goodness and gentleness of 
disposition, how when betrayed you stood unshaken, how you 
served them who owned thee not : how you suffered when 
unknown and made not the slightest mention of it when you 

got known Thy greatness must stand undimmed though 

unwitnessed by man like the lofty Himalayan peaks. Thy 
services and sacrifices must be buried in oblivion as do the 
foundations of a mighty castle " 


From Young India — 18th June, 1925 
(Editorial page) 

V. V. S. Iyer : 

The readers of Young India will share my 
regret over the death by drowning of Sjt. V. V. S. 
Iyer. I had the pleasure of meeting him in 
London years ago. He was then a fierce anarchist. 
But he gradually mellowed down. The fire of 
patriotism burnt none the less brightly in him. 
He was a staunch non-cooperator and latterly he 
had intended to devote himself entirely to 
conducting the Shermadevi Gurukul. I always 
regarded him as a fine, sincere and persevering 
servant of the nation. May his soul rest in peace ! 

—M. K. G. 

(Reproduced by Courtesy of the Navajivan Trust.) 



It is not easy to convince the literary world at this late hour 
of day that there is, unsuspected by the greater part of it, a 
Tamil poet who is worthy to take rank with the greatest names 
in literature. It is, however, my purpose in this book to make 
an attempt to prove that in the Ramayana of Kamban the world 
possesses an epic which can challenge comparison not merely 
with the Iliad and the JEneid, the Paradise Lost and the 
Mahabharata, but with its original itself, namely, the Ramayana 
of Valmiki. This is not the language of mere patriotic enthusiasm. 
It is an opinion that has grown slowly with years and after 
deep and careful study. And I hope to make the impartial 
reader rise from the study of this monograph with a conviction 
of the truth of my contention and with a desire to know more 
of the poet than what he will see exhibited within the pages 
of this volume. 

I spoke of Valmiki's work as the original of KambanV 
Ramayana. But Kamban has not translated Valmiki. He has 
merely taken the story immortalised by the Aryan sage and, 
though he has followed it closely enough in all its details, has 
written an entirely original poem. Bentley said of Pope's Iliad, 
" It is a pretty poem, but you must not call it Homer." Of 
Kamban's Ramayana we should say reversing the language, 
" It is not Valmiki's Ramayana, but it is a grander poem ". 

It is a curious fact that during the whole course of our long 
literary history, until very recent times, no Samskrit classic has 
been literally translated into any of our vernaculars 1 . The 
Ramayana, the Mahabharata, the Bhagavata, and the Skanda 
Purana have been among the literary treasures that poets from 
every part of India have attempted to render into their 
mother-tongues. But in no single vernacular is there a literal 
translation of any of these divine poems which dates from more 
than three or four decades ago. On the contrary, all the old 

i The Bhagavad Gita appears to be the only exception so far as we 
know. It has been literally translated into Tamil verse by the great 
Acharya Manavala Maha Muni in the 12th century of the Sakabcto, i.e. 
the 13th century a.d. 


poetical renderings of these classics in the vernaculars are no 
more than free adaptations from their originals. 

This tendency to rewrite the stories of the Samskrit classics 
instead of translating them seems to be a common instinct with 
the peoples of India, for, so far as we can see, it cannot have 
been the result of imitation by one people of the literary methods 
of another. The earliest adaptation of a Samskrit classic into 
a vernacular tongue is most probably that of the Mahabharata 
into Tamil by Perun Devanar who is said to have lived in the 
first century of the Sakabda 1 . Since then, the Skanda Purana, 
the Ramayana and the stories of Nala and Harishchandra, among 
others, have been rendered into Tamil by scores of poets, but 
not one of these renderings is a mere translation. We find the 
same phenomenon in Telugu. The monumental Bharatam of 
Nannayya and Tikkanna has nothing in common with Vyasa's 
Mahabharata except the story. There is nothing to show that 
the authors of the Telugu Bharatam took to this method of 
adapting the Samskrit epic instead of translating it from the 
example of Tamil poets. The same is the case with Bhaskara's 
Ramayana, Tulsi Das's Rama Charita Manas and other vernacular 
classics of India. All these poets have dealt very freely with 
their originals. Their tropes and fancies, their imagery, their 
descriptions and dissertations are not those of the original poems 
but their own. They develop certain incidents, cut down certain 
others, and introduce interludes, fables, allegories or new 
incidents according to their pleasure. In short what they write 
are new poems altogether and not translations. And this tendency 
is to be seen among writers of Provinces situated so wide apart 
as Bengal and the Tamil country and Gujarat, and of ages 
extending from the first century up to our own times. 

If we look into the matter carefully, this method of 
popularising the stories revered by the people will appear much 
better than the western method of literally translating them 
into poetry. For, the attitude of mind in which the poet has to 
place himself in the attempt to translate from one language into 
another acts as a drag upon all his higher faculties, so that even 
poets of a very high order are failures when they descend to 
translation on a large scale. Coleridge hit the nail on the head 
when he said " the translation of poetry into poetry is difficult, 
because the translator must give a brilliancy to his language 
without that warmth of original conception from which such 
brilliancy would follow of its own accord ". The mind of the 

1 i.e. the 2nd Century of Christ. 


spoet is checked in its flight when it is weighted with the thoughts 
and images of the original which he has to render closely into 
another language. His mind loses its natural flow and has to 
substitute for it a simulacrum by all sorts of subterfuges. And 
the result is a travesty of the original which is not merely below 
the original, but even below the average quality of the works 
of the translator himself, as one can see by comparing, for 
instance, Pope's Iliad and Odyssey with his other works. 

Hence it is that Indian poets even of the second rank have 
with unerring good sense abstained from translating the Samskrit 
classics, but instead have rewritten them in their own way for 
their countrymen. Thus while Europe has — to take one 
representative each from the Greek and the Latin literatures — 
but one Iliad and one JEneid, and a host of translations of these 
•epics, India has not one Ramayana and one Mahabharata, but 
at least a score of Ramayanas and Mahabharatas. No doubt 
these are of unequal merit, but each one of them is at least as 
great as the unhampered flight of its author's genius could 
make it. 

We should think that this difference between Europe and 
India in the method adopted for the rendering of the classics 
Into the vernaculars is due to the fact that, while the nations 
of Europe have cut themselves away from their ancient religions 
as those of Greece and Rome, the peoples of India are, on the 
other hand, even to this day followers of the religion of the 
Ramayana and the Mahabharata, and the Skanda Purana and the 
Bhagavata. To the modern European, Jupiter and Minerva and 
Mars and Vulcan are nothing more than names, though with 
poetical associations. Chateaubriand goes so far as to call them 
devils who took form to corrupt mankind. But to the Hindu of 
today, Rama and Krishna, Uma and Saraswati are heroes and 
divinities worshipped with the same fervour with which they 
were worshipped by his ancestors before him. While it is 
only the scholar in Europe that can feel for Andromache and 
Hector, and Hercules and Cassandra, every Hindu, be he or she 
the most innocent of letters will shed tears with Sita and 
Draupadi, and swell with pride at the exploits of Bhima and 
Hanuman. Therefore, in taking up these stories as the subject 
matter of their epics our poets had no need to look to the literary 
classes alone for readers, but could appeal to all their countrymen 
who spoke their language ; and that ought to be the reason why 
they rewrote in their mother-tongues, instead of translating, 
these epics so much loved of their people. Perhaps the poets 


of Europe too would have followed a similar course if there had. 
been epics that treated of the stories of Abraham or Jesus, great, 
and ancient enough to make the greatest poets think it a matter 
not derogatory to their dignity to rewrite them in their own 
language. The absence of such ancient poems of transcendental 
merit may in part explain the fact that in modern Europe the 
natural instinct of epic poets to embody in poetry the 
fundamental beliefs of their race and civilisation has produced 
not one or more central stories for the whole of Europe, but 
such different poems as the Divine Comedy, Jerusalem Delivered, 
the Paradise Lost and Les Martyrs 1 . 

However this may be, here is the fact that Kamban has 
merely sung again in Tamil the great story of the Ramayana 
and yet has been adjudged by his contemporaries, no mean 
judges of poetry, as the Emperor of the Realms of Poesy — a title 
which every succeeding generation in the Tamil country has 
been but confirming ever since. 

Other poets have taken their stories from earlier authors 
or contemporary tradition, and have won immortal fame by 
singing them. Indeed it may almost be said that no great poet 
has ever cared to invent a story. For, even Valmiki got his story 
from Narada and Brahma, Vyasa sang of the events that took 
place before his own eyes, and Homer wrote the Iliad and the 
Odyssey out of the traditions current in his time. Corneille and 
Rachine looked to Greece and Rome and Spain for the themes 
of their tragedies. It is well-known that Shakespeare borrowed 
his stories from any source that was near at hand and not 
infrequently rewrote for his own stage dramas which were 
popular in his day. But the sources from which these masters 
drew their stories were almost always of very indifferent merit, 
and none but the curious student of literary criticism would now 
care to look into them. Kamban's case, however, is entirely 
different. He has not merely taken his theme from the greatest 
of Samskrit epics but has followed it in almost every detail step 
by step. He has himself challenged comparison, though in all 
humility, with the first of Samskrit poets, and yet not one of 
the critics who have compared his work with that of Valmiki 
has ever denied him place among the greatest poets of the world. 
It is now for the larger critical audience of India and of the rest 
of the world to appraise Kamban's work and adjudge to him 
his proper place among the sons of Saraswati 2 . 

i Though this work is in prose, Chateaubriand has conceived thd- 
theme and conducted the story in epic style, 
a the goddess of learning. 


Though Kamban has followed Valmiki very closely in the 
-conduct of his epic, and though no Indian is ignorant of the story, 
I propose to give here in a short compass the main incidents of 
that immortal story, always following Kamban, so that even those 
who have not hitherto made themselves acquainted with the same 
may be enabled to follow this study with ease. 

Ages and ages ago the island of Lanka which is to the south 
of India, and which was in those days hundreds of times larger 
■ than it is at present, was inhabited by a race of beings called 
Rakshasas, who are described as huge and often misshapen giants, 
strong and powerful, and active and energetic to a degree much 
beyond the race of men. They crossed over to the mainland often 
and disturbed the peace of the holy men living there. Ravana, 
their king had, by his great austerities and devotion to Shiva and 
Brahma, received from them the blessings of enormous strength, 
long life, and victory against every possible opponent. Valiant, 
proud, and ambitious, he made war against heaven and earth. 
Wherever he went victory followed him, and the whole universe 
•was powerless to stand against him and trembled with the fear 
of the Rakshasa name. He destroyed sacrifices, killed Rishis and 
other holy men, subdued the gods, and made war on mankind. 
The gods implored Vishnu, the Protector of the universe, to free 
them from the yoke of Ravana and the Rakshasas, and their prayer 
was heard. Ravana in the pride of his strength had deemed man 
and the monkey as too much beneath him to pray to Shiva and 
Brahma for victory against them. Vishnu therefore promised to 
the gods that he would Himself come down on earth and be born 
as man and that He would destroy Ravana and his Rakshasas for 
ever. He also commanded the gods to be born on earth as monkeys 
and apes and bears and await his avatar 2 . 

So Vishnu incarnated Himself as man and was born in the 
<family of the Raghus as Rama, son and heir to Dasharatha, 
Emperor of India. Rama had three brothers, Bharata, Lakshmana 

i This chapter is the substance of a lecture delivered before the 
Highgate Hill Unitarian Church, London in 1908 by the author and partly 
printed in the last issue of the " Swaraj " of Shriman Bepin Chandra Pal 
in the subsequent year. 

z Incarnation. 


and Shatrughna. The four brothers grew in age and years, in< 
learning and all the princely arts. Even as the ocean smiled upon 
by the silvery orb of the moon swells in joyous strength, even so 
did these children grow in grace and beauty, strength and learning. 
Rama and Lakshmana excelled in archery and all the arts of war. 
Bharata and Shatrughna learned, as royal children must, the art 
of using the bow and the arrow, but were more mild in 
temperament. All three brothers vied with each other in their 
love' for the valiant, the sweet-souled, the serene Rama. 

The fame of Rama attracted a sage called Vishvamitra who 
prayed Dasharatha to send Rama with him to guard his sacrificial 
fire from pollution by the evil Rakshasas. Dasharatha had never 
hitherto parted with Rama. He had, like Abraham, despaired of 
having an heir born to him, when, lo, the joy of all the Raghus, 
Shri Rama, was born in his house. Rama was the light of his 
eyes, dearer than very life unto him. So the prayer of the sage 
struck him in the heart. ' Even as a man blind from birth, who 
had been blessed with vision for a brief space of time, would 
groan helplessly if he should suddenly lose his new acquired 
power of sight, even so grieved the king.' Dasharatha prayed 
the sage to leave Rama who was too young to fight, and offered 
himself to go with him to guard his sacrifice, but the very 
suggestion of a denial of his request excited the wrath or 
Vishvamitra and his serene aspect grew terrible to behold. 
Vasishtha 1 however advised Dasharatha to accede to the request 
of Vishvamitra and the king allowed Rama, and also Lakshmana, 
to accompany the holy man. 

Rama and Lakshmana destroyed the Rakshasas that attempted 
to pollute and desecrate the sacrifice. On its completion the Rishi 
took the princes to Mithila. The king of Mithila, Janaka of Vedic 
fame, had a daughter called Sita whom he had vowed to give in 
marriage to any prince who was able to bend the bow of Shiva, 
the God of Destruction. Vishvamitra had in his heart decided 
that sweet-eyed Sita should wed his ward Shri Rama, and that 
was the reason why he took the brothers to Mithila. Destiny 
itself seemed intent on consummating the union. 

The spirit of Mithila seemed to say, ' I prayed both day 

and night, 
And sweetest Lakshmi, lotus born, of fairest form and 


i The family preceptor. 


In answer to my prayers left her thousand petalled flower; 
She left her home and sought to dwell in my own greenest 

Come thou, my gracious lord, to see and wed that purest 

The pennants seemed her outstretched arms welcoming 

Dasharath's son 1 . 

The artful Rishi took Rama and Lakshmana through the very 
street where Sita's bower was situated. As luck would have it, 
Sita was standing on the top floor of her palace surrounded by 
her girl friends. To his great delight Vishvamitra saw Rama 
looking in that direction, noted that he encountered her eyes, 
and that afterwards he looked at nothing else. For who could 
look on that face, sweet with the sweetness of Indian spring, 
carrying memories of blue heavens and sunny glades, of the 
scent of a thousand delicate flowers, of the warbling brook and 
the voice of the fcoil — who could look on that face and not have 
his heart enthralled ? The poet becomes speechless before the 
ineffable perfection of her loveliness and falls down before it. 
He dares not describe her form. He says, ' what shall we 
compare that form to, by the standard of whose loveliness alone 
can all other beauty be measured ? The eyes of men as well as 
those of the gods are too weak to drink in the full effulgence of 
that heavenly form. As the Ocean of Milk, when it had yielded 
ambrosia, could afterwards give nothing that is sweeter, even 
so, when the Creator had made Sita, he could create no higher 
beauty, for He had realised perfection. What shall we say is 
the cause that Lakshmi left her lotus home and was born on 
earth ? Is it the prayer of Brahmans of infinite holiness ? Is 
it the prayer of the earth or the heavens, of the Devas, or Virtue's 

self ? She stood there a very queen of light, a sight 

to make the very stones melt with love. The very Genius of 
Beauty acquired new loveliness by mingling with her form'. 

In due course Rama was introduced to Janaka who ordered 
the bow to be brought before the prince. Rama appeared to 
undertake an impossible task. For had not heroes of mature 
strength, anxious to win the hand of Sita, tried to bend that bow 
and failed ? Sita must have prayed in her heart earnestly that 
he might succeed in bending the bow. For, when Rama saw 
her for the first time, her eyes also had lighted on him, and she 

i I x 1 (See Publisher's Note for elucidation of these reference 
numbers in this book.) 


had decided in her heart that he alone should be her lord. 
Rama however took the bow without the slightest misgiving. 
Everybody held his breath and looked on with intense expectation. 
But they saw him take the bow, they only heard it snap. Such 
was Rama's strength and such the ease with which he broke the 
powerful bow of Shiva. The world was glad and the gods leaped 
with joy. For was not the union of Rama with Sita to be the 
cause of the deliverance of the worlds from the tyranny of the 
Rakshasas ? 

Dasharatha was invited to Mithila, and the marriage was 
celebrated amidst festivities and rejoicing. 

The scene changes. The rosy hues of the morning last but 
a few minutes. Soon the basest clouds ride with ugly rack on 
the Sun's celestial face ' and from the forlorn world his visage 
hide '. Great things have to be done for the world by Rama, 
and great things have never been achieved from on a bed 
of down. 

Dasharatha desired that Rama should be installed as emperor 
during his own lifetime. He therefore called the assembly of 
the wise who approved of Rama and consented to his being made 
their sovereign. The day of installation was fixed for the morrow 
and Dasharatha gave orders for decorating the city and making 
other preparations for celebrating the great event with due 
pomp and ceremony. But Rama was destined not to wear the 
imperial diadem for fourteen years more. 

Now Dasharatha had three wives : Kausalya the mother of 
Rama, Sumitra the mother of Lakshmana and Shatrughna, and 
Kaikeyi the mother of Bharata. Among them all Kaikeyi seemed 
most attached to Rama, but her love was selfish. She saw that 
Rama was good and brave and valiant, and she nursed her pride 
when she loved him. When therefore Manthara, one of her 
maids, told her that if Rama were to obtain the crown, the 
influence of Kausalya would grow to the detriment of her own, 
lust of power and jealousy of her rival smothered the affection 
based on vanity, and she determined that her own son Bharata 
should be placed upon the throne. Cunningly she made 
Dasharatha swear that he would grant her prayer whatever it 
might be, and then she demanded that Bharata should be crowned 
in place of Rama. The King prayed her, remonstrated with 
her not to press her request, but she was obdurate. Long before, 
when he was warring with Asuras, Dasharatha had been saved 
in the midst of a battle by the personal prowess of this queen, 
and had then promised her that he would grant her without 


■question any two requests that she might be pleased to make 
to him at any time. ' I claim the boons that thou didst once 
promise me,' she said. ' Thou may'st grant them or refuse them 
as it pleases thee. The one is the installation of Bharata, and 
the other is the exile of Rama into the forests for fourteen years '. 
The King stood aghast. For he had promised to grant her 
prayers whatever they might be, and his word must be kept, 
whatever the cost might be. Not ten thousands Ramas should 
keep him from the performance of his promise. The race of 
the Sun ought never to be sullied by a promise broken. And so 
Dasharatha submitted with a mortal pang to her hard-hearted 
desire and sank on his bed senseless. 

Kaikeyi herself now sent for Rama, and he came in his 
chariot not suspecting what had happened during the previous 
night. He saluted her with humility and affection as usual. But 
her heart was made of stone. ' There is one thing, Rama ', she 
said, ' which thy father commands thee to do '. In the words of 
the poet, 

She said, ' The king commands that all the earth 
By ocean girt thy brother Bharat shall rule ; 
And thou shalt wear the twisted knot, and tread 
The forests wide with saintly steps, and bathe 
In sacred waters, and in fourteen years 
Return to fair Ayodhya and live in peace.' 
Can I in words describe how Rama looked 
When fell these cruel words from Kaikai's lips ? 
Who can his calmness fitly paint ? For what 
It was so like before, the faultless lotus 
Opening to the dawn, his unchanged look 
Outshone in tranquil grace I 1 

Rama's reply to Kaikeyi was calm and filled with the heroism 
of renunciation. 

' E'en were it not my father's royal will,' 

He said, ' would Ram thy son transgress thy word ? 

And Bharata's fortune, can it ever be 

Less dear to me than mine ? I say no more : 

I take thy blest command a sacred duty ; 

Behold, this very day I start and take 

My leave.' 2 

, 1 II iii 107-108. 2 II iii 110. 


So saying he bowed down at her feet, pressed them to his- 
eyes, saluted the direction where his father lay unconscious, and 
turned towards his mother's palace. 

When Kausalya saw him stand before her alone and 
unattended, — him, who she was every moment fondly expecting, 
would come with all the signs of new-anointed royalty to see 
her first and receive a mother's heartful blessing — when she saw 
him stand there in her presence alone, her heart throbbed with 
a vague sense of impending evil. And when he prostrated 
himself at her feet she blessed him with an anxious trembling 
heart, and then asked him why he had not been crowned that 
day. The gentle Rama told her, ' It is now decided, mother, that 
Bharata, thy son, is to be our king.' And the artless queen who 
loved all the sons of her husband with an equal affection said, 
' This is contrary to usage ; but renunciation doth well become 
thee, son. And, having bestowed the sceptre on thy brother, 
live with him in friendship and in peace ". Rama was touched 
to hear her exalted sentiments of disinterested love and was 
pained at the necessity of having to disillusion her. He told her 
that the king had commanded him to do a certain thing for the 
salvation of his soul, and that was that he — Rama — should live 
in forests in the company of sages, and return in fourteen years. 
Like a deer struck to the heart by the murderous arrow, she 
fell to the ground and broke out into heart-rending sobs. But 
Rama consoled her. He said that nothing should make him 
disobey his father or make his spoken word a lie, and that she 
should help him to obey his father's commands. The duty of 
the wife in the end conquered the affection of the mother, and 
she blessed him, and with a painful wrench of the heart she 
let him go. 

The news of Rama's impending exile soon spread abroad 
and reached the ears of Lakshmana. Impetuous was the love 
which Lakshmana bore to Rama. He swore a great oath that 
he would place Rama upon the throne, even were the gods of 
all the worlds to stand between him and his purpose. But 
Rama met him, spoke gentle words to him, soothed his stormy 
spirit, and took him to Sumitra. The grand queen loved Rama 
as her very life. She was filled with grief at the turn that affairs 
had taken. But consoled by Rama she soon recognised that 
what must be must not be wept over but endured. Not only 
this. She commanded her son Lakshmana to accompany Rama 
in his exile. She addressed him these memorable words : 
'Consider Rama as Dasharatha's self and look upon Sita as thy 


own mother, myself ; the forests wild shall be to thee as pleasant 
as Ayodhya ; I bless thee, son, depart with a joyful heart '. 
Kama prayed her to look after his mother and father and took 
his leave. 

It remained now to broach the unexpected news to Sita and 
take leave of her. In the presence of Sita, therefore, thrilling 
with the expectation of seeing him come to her crowned with the 
imperial diadem, Rama stood, attended by Lakshmana only. 
When she saw his uncrowned head and forest-dwellers' robes • 
she could not understand at first what it all meant. Rama 
explained to her the situation and asked leave of her. Then, 
in the words of the poet, 

She grieved not that her lord his kingdom left 

And throne ; but the words he spoke — ' grieve not, my 

I take thy leave ' — did send an arrow through 
Her heart. ' Right holy's thy purpose to obey 
Thy mother's commands,' she said. ' But, lord, thy word 
To me to stay at home when thou dost leave 
An exile for the wilds unknown, that word 
Has pierced my heart '. Said Rama, ' Thy tender feet 
Are not made to tread the stony wilds that burn 
Like molten wax '. ' But can the stony wilds,' 
Said she, ' burn more than separation from 
My Ram?' 1 

So saying, before Rama could frame any reply, she went 
back into her apartments, put on coarse robes, and without a 
word more stood by his side ready to accompany him to the 
forests. All the men and women that witnessed that strong 
love and quiet determination, wept with renewed grief. 

And so they left for the forest, renewed their old friendship 
with the sturdy forest-chief Guha who rowed them across the 
Ganga, and wended their way southward. 

In the meantime Dasharatha had died of a broken heart. 
Bharata and Shatrughna were away from Ayodhya while all 
these things were happening and they were recalled in haste 
by the council of ministers. As soon as Bharata returned and 
learned the cause of all this grief he cursed his mother, he- 

1 II iv 224, 226-228. 


cursed himself, he cursed the day that he was born. It broke 
his heart to think that it was for his sake that Rama had been 
exiled by his mother, and a great sorrow filled his soul. He 
determined therefore, to bring back Rama and install him on 
the throne of the Raghus. He performed the obsequies of his 
father, put on coarse garments, and went into the forests to seek 
Rama. The people of Ayodhya burned with a desire to see 
Rama and bring him back, and so followed Bharata. The forest- 
chief Guha at first thought that Bharata was come to capture 
and destroy Rama and wanted to give him battle. But when he 
. saw his garments and grief-stricken appearance his sturdy heart 
melted and a boundless love and reverence sprang in his heart 
for Bharata. He then directed him to the road that Rama had 
taken. Bharata at last met Rama, fell at his feet, and wept like 
a child. ' Take back the crown that is thine, brother, oh my 
brother ! ' he said, but Rama lifted him up, embraced him like 
a tender father, and told him that he could not go back upon 
his word, and that until the fourteen years had passed he would 
not cross back even into the borders of Ayodhya. Bharata's 
remonstrations were all in vain. At length he made Rama 
promise that he would be back at Ayodhya on the first day of 
the fifteenth year. He then vowed that he himself would not 
enter the capital until that day, but would have the affairs of 
the kingdom conducted by ministers and wise men, and that if 
he did not see Rama on that first day of the fifteenth year of 
Rama's exile he would light a fire and fall into it as accursed 
both of God and man. The expostulations of Rama would 
not move him from his resolve and Rama had to promise 
as he asked him to. Rama then moved southward into the 
Dekhan forests. 

For thirteen years Rama, Lakshmana and Sita lived a life 
of pastoral peace in the forests. True to his mother's word, 
Lakshmana did everything to make the life of Rama and Sita as 
happy as possible. When Rama decided to stay at any place 
for some considerable time, Lakshmana would make a clearing 
in the forest, erect a thatched hermitage on a lonely eminence 
not far from a babbling brook, and plant flowers and creepers 
around the cottage. He would go into the forest, collect fruits 
and edible roots for their food, and generally do everything that 
could conduce to the comfort or add to the happiness of his 
brother and sister. The deep silence of the forest, the vast 
panorama of nature around them, the green hillock, the grassy 
;heath, the giant trees upreaching to the vaults of heaven, the 


wild creepers hanging luxurious from the tops of the tall trees 
and reaching to the ground, the cool shade, the scraps of blue 
sky here and there visible through the dense foliage in the 
interior of the forest and on that account the more lovely and 
the more eagerly looked for, all these contributed to their life 
of Arcadian beauty and sweet simplicity. In the mornings, 
after the daily baths and customary devotions, the brothers would 
go out into the jungle and return to the cottage laden with the 
banana and the bread-fruit and the sweet mango and edible 
roots, and would lay them before Sita. In the meanwhile Sita 
would have prepared the welcome meal. After serving them 
their meal she would partake of the food and then join them 
in the out-house. As evening drew near, they would go out 
of the hermitage and enjoy the sublime beauties of the tropical 
forest. They would listen now to the murmuring of the brook, 
now to the distant sound of a waterfall, now again to the far off 
roar of the lion, now to the mellow calls of the sweet-throated 
fcoil or the tender cooings of the woodland dove. Now they 
would play with the sportive fawn. And now again they would 
watch the frolicking monkeys jumping and leaping up the trees. 
Thus they would enjoy the thousand and one sweet things that 
Nature shows to those that seek her in her solitudes. Rama 
would tell Sita stories from the Vedas and ancient Puranas of 
pastoral loves and city magnificence, of religious calm or daring 
heroic war, and would raise alternate emotions of love and pity, 
wonder and admiration in her responsive heart. Sometimes her 
rich voice at Rama's request would fill the forest solitudes 
with the very soul of music, and then even the koil would 
hush her tones and acknowledge a master. Thus passed the 
life of that pair, happy in the unmeasured fulness of each 
other's love. 

But the race of the Rakshasas had to be destroyed and the 
peaceful course of this perfect love was to be interrupted. 

One day Shurpanakha, the sister of Ravana, in her wanderings 
through the forest saw Rama and at once fell in love with his 
godlike form. She approached him but he repelled her advances. 
To revenge herself and to remove the cause, as she thought, 
of Rama's disregard for her, she attempted to carry away Sita. 
But Lakshmana who was watching over Sita with a brother's 
care punished Shurpanakha by mutilating her person. The 
Rakshasa army, which advanced on Rama to avenge Shurpanakha's 
wrongs, was completely annihilated by him. So she set off to 
Lanka and there detailed her griefs to Ravana. She said, falsely, 


that she was about to carry away for him a woman of perfect 
beauty when her husband's brother maimed her, and there she 
was, injured in his cause. Her description of Sita's beauty 
maddened Ravana with passion and raised in him an irrepressible 
desire .to possess such a woman. He who had burned with rage 
on seeing his sister's wrongs and hearing the fate of his army 
and had sworn to avenge them, now forgot his sister's wrongs 
and forgot the prowess of him who could single-handed 
annihilate a whole army, but remembered Sita and remembered 
her alone. He burned with the desire of making her his wife. 

Ravana decided to carry off Sita by stealth. He therefore 
directed a Rakshasa named Maricha to cross over to the mainland, 
to take the shape of a golden coloured deer, and to go near Sita 
and attract her eyes. When she should want Rama to capture 
him for her, the Rakshasa was to give them the slip and draw 
Rama into the woods. The plan was that Ravana should then 
surprise Sita alone and carry her away. 

So the golden deer came and frolicked about the hermitage. 
Sita saw him and was charmed with his seductive beauty and 
sportiveness and begged Rama to capture him for her. 
Lakshmana warned Rama that there was some unknown danger 
lurking behind all this. However, seeing Rama neglect his 
warnings he himself offered to go, but with a petulant, fateful 
obstinacy Sita asked Rama himself to go. So Rama went after 
the deer bow in hand. The disguised Rakshasa however drew 
him on farther and farther and farther into the interior of the 
forest. He would stand still pretending to browse the tender 
grass. But when Rama with cautious step would approach him 
and be on the point of catching him, he would dart away with 
lightning speed and begin to sport in a farther field. Rama 
had run after him for such a long time and had gone so far, and 
the Rakshasa was so provoking in his deceitful gambols, that he 
lost his temper and aimed an arrow at him. The Rakshasa was 
mortally wounded. But even at the moment of death he wanted 
to serve Ravana, and so he gave up his breath, sending up a 
groan in the intonations of Rama's voice, and his groan was 
loud enough to reach the hermitage. Rama saw some great 
evil in this abnormal cry and hastened back. 

But in the meantime Sita heard the Rakshasa's cry and, 
believing that it was Rama calling for help, asked Lakshmana 
to look for him in the jungle. Lakshmana apprehended some 
terrible evil if he left Sita alone, while on the other hand he 
was absolutely confident that there was no foe living who could 


Jiarm Rama in combat. He, therefore, told Sita that no harm 
could come to Rama and that he should not leave her. But Sita 
spoke cruel words to him ; and so with a heart heavy with gloomy 
forebodings he obeyed her and followed in the direction of 
Rama's steps. 

Like a thief Ravana had been watching for this opportunity, 
and he came in the. garb of a religions mendicant before Sita's 
cottage. The door of "the Hindu home is ever open for wayfarers 
to walk in and claim hospitality, and so he went in. He was 
welcomed by Sita. In the course of the conversation he fell 
to praising himself (in the third person) and his rule, while 
still pretending to be a wandering Sadhu. To her remark that 
the praise of the Rakshasa did not become a holy man he 
replied that Ravana was the master of the world today and that 
it was well to be on the side of the strong. ' Fear not then,' 
she said ; ' for Rama has sworn to annihilate the Rakshasa with 
all his army '. The pretended mendicant replied, ' The hare 
would beat the tusked elephant or the horned deer gore the 
Jion to death if men should be able to destroy the Rakshasas '. 
He also spoke of the vast size and twenty arms of Ravana. 

' Of what avail are twenty arms ? ' said Sita. ' For did not 
Parashu Rama kill Kartavirya, the king of the thousand arms, 
even he who had kept Ravana in prison for years ? ' The allusion 
to his former defeat and shame struck him in the heart, and 
burning with rage and foaming with passion, the false form burst 
and revealed the Rakshasa. As living beings in sight of the 
awful God of Death, Sita trembled with fear. But Ravana 
uprooted and lifted sheer the cottage in which she was and 
placing it in his vast flying chariot flew towards Lanka. 

Jatayus a powerful Vulture and a friend of Rama fought 
with Ravana in mid-air in order to rescue Sita, but Ravana 
felled him down with the great sword of Shiva and Sita's one 
forlorn hope was crushed. 

In the meantime Lakshmana had found Rama and both 
hurried home with a beating heart. Sita was not there and 
the tender-hearted husband was convulsed with grief. There 
were the marks of large feet and the trail of a heavy chariot 
on the ground close by.. Filled with a thousand anxieties the 
brothers followed the trail and fell in with the Vulture-King 
struggling against death. He told them that Sita was carried 
off by Ravana the Rakshasa king and that he himself had been 
mortally wounded in his attempt to rescue her. Rama wept tears 
■of gratitude and bitterness at the feet of Jatayus who expired 


with Rama's name upon his lips. With a heart bleeding withu 
grief for the loss of Sita and the death of the devoted King of 
Vultures, Rama performed his obsequies and swore a great oath, 
once again that he would uproot the whole race of Rakshasas. 

Rama now pursued his way southward towards Lanka. 
After a few days' journey he met Sugriva, a chief of the Vanaras, 1 
who was living in constant terror of his brother Vali. Rama 
learned from him that his brother was not only on the look-out 
to kill him but had even deprived him of his wife. The memory 
of his recent loss moved Rama to punish the wrong-doer with, 
his own hand. So Vali was killed and Sugriva was anointed 
king of the Vanaras. 

In return for this help Sugriva agreed to take upon himself 
the task of searching all over the world for Sita and help Rama 
in recovering her. And the Vanaras were sent in different 
directions to search for her. 

Among those that undertook to wander over the world for 
Rama's sake was Hanuman, the Indian Hercules. He was the 
very ideal of strength and endurance and loyal devotion and 
intuitive wisdom. He had been the first of the Vanaras to see 
Rama and Lakshmana and at the very first look he had decided 
that they were not ordinary men but heroes whom it should be 
an honour and glory to serve. His devotion to Rama was intense. 
It was the loyalty of immense physical strength to magnificent 
manhood, of perfect valour to god-like heroism. 

Hanuman was among those who went south. He crossed 
the ocean and reached the city of Lanka. Every palace, every 
court, every temple, every conceivable place he entered and 
searched for Sita. He saw Mandodari the wife of Ravana 
sleeping on a luxurious couch in her apartments. Her perfect 
beauty suggested to him the thought that she might be Sita. 
But the richness of her attire and belongings and the absence of 
any signs of deep grief on her face soon told him that she coufd 
not be Sita. He passed. As he was entering the portico of 
another palace bad portents appeared. And he thought ' Alas t 
this city, with all her magnificence, is doomed to perish ! ' He 
penetrated further and saw the gigantic form of Ravana reposing 
majestically, but rolling with pain and mental anguish. On 
seeing him, his first impulse was to wake him and fight with him. 
But soon second thoughts told him that it was neither wise nor 
right, for that was not in the instructions given him by Rama. 

i Powerful monkeys. 


And * as the ocean main, though powerful enough to dash down 
the shore and flood the earth, yet bides its time and leaves. not 
its appointed limits ', even so did Hanuman check his impulse 
and leave Ravana to the proper vengeance of Rama. 

At last after a thousand anxieties he saw Sita in a grove 
of Ashoka trees. There she was, surrounded by Rakshasis, like 
a deer in the midst 6f leopards, the colour faded from her cheek,. 
her eyes raining a perpetual shower of tears, her form lean and! 
emaciated, her hair one twisted knot — there she was like a 
picture smoked, like the moon eclipsed, like the lotus killed 
by frost. ' Might it be that my lord had not met Lakshmana ? * 
she was saying to herself. ' How could he know that I am here, 
in this sea-girt island ? Or would he have spurned me as 
unworthy of him, for that I had spoken harsh words to 
Lakshmana ? Oh who would give him the tasteful betel-leaf ? 
And how he would grieve when he sees a guest ! ' She would 
think on that lion face that was not overcast at the sudden 
command of exile, that face which, both when asked by his 
father to accept the imperial crown as well as when commanded 
to leave all and live a forest life, like the pictured lotus was 
ever the same ! She wept for the iron arm that broke Shiva's 
bow. She thought of Rama's grief when Bharata refused the 
crown and condemned himself to a forest life, and she wept. 

It was in the midst of these reflections that Hanuman saw 
her. He saw and he felt that it was she. He blessed Rama, 
he blessed her stainless virtue, he blessed her father's race. 
While he was in this state of grateful joy at seeing Sita alive 
and pure, Ravana appeared on the scene. This was one of his 
many visits to Sita to attempt to persuade her to repudiate Rama 
and marry him. He recounted to her his greatness, his strength,, 
and his powers, his victories in the past and his present 
prosperity. All his wealth, his power, his very sceptre he saidV 
he would place at her feet and himself would remain her slave,, 
if she would but consent to wed him. On hearing these words, 
grown more hateful by constant repetition, Sita's face burned 
with indignation and wifely pride, and she replied to him in 
these words : 

' To pierce mount Meru, to shatter the vault of heaven,, 
to annihilate the fourteen worlds, is not one arrow from 
Rama's quiver sufficient ? Thou wert afraid of that arrow 
and that arm : therefore is it that thou earnest like a thief and 
carriedst me away here in his absence. Dost thou affect to- 
despise my lord and his brother for that they are men 7 


It was a man that killed Kartavirya, the same Kartavirya who 
imprisoned thee in former days. Think'st thou that they are 
■only two ? He that ends the world and all in it is only one . . . 
Knowest thou not that Parashu Rama quailed before my 
blessed lord — even that Parashu Rama who killed Kartavirya, 
whom I worship because he kept thee once in close 
She would have continued further, but Ravana could not 

endure it any longer. Conflicting emotions rent his heart, but 

at length he spoke these words : 

' My first impulse, Sita, was to put thee to the sword for 
daring to use such words to me. But, O my love, if I kill thee, 
I kill myself. Thou mockest me with my defeats, as thou 
callest them. But were they reverses ? They were all sport, 
my victories as well as my defeats. And thinkest thou I was 
afraid to meet Rama in battle ? No ! for if he had died as 
die he must against me fighting, thou, who even now continuest 
to love him, wouldst have put an end to thy life. It is to 
.guard against this that I brought thee away in secret. Grant 
that I failed in war against my foes ; how comes it that I rule 
the earth and heaven, and without a second ? Though I 
should never willingly expend my wrath upon these pigmies 
who are wasting their life in austerities, yet for thy sake I 
shall even stain my valour that has extinguished the might 
of the Supreme Three and gods, and stoop to fight these 
feeble folk. But I shall not kill them — I shall merely bring 
them over here and make them my slaves. Though they are 
worthless puny men, they deserve not to die, at least for the 
service they have done me in having brought thee within my 
reach. But if thou wantest them killed, if thou canst believe 
in my strength only when I destroy them, if that alone will 
please thee, I shall even kill them.' 
The mention of blood inflamed his wrath once again and 

lie continued, trying also to see if threats could make her yield. 

He said, 

' I shall even go to Ayodhya and, putting to death 
Bharata with all his host, I shall march on Mithila like the 
Fire of the Day of Dissolution, and after uprooting thy kith 
and kin I shall drink thy blood also ! Thou art bringing 
thy own end nearer by provoking me, O Sita ! ' 
And then looking at his flashing steel he frowned and said, 
' There are but two months left, within which thou must 
yield. If thou dost not become mine within that time I 


shall, kill thee straight .' ' 

So saying he frowned and went his way> ' bearing her image 
away in his heart '. 

Hanuman had been watching this interview with a beating 

In the meanwhile, however, despair had seized the heart of 

Sita. She had been hoping against hope that Rama would come 

and rescue her. But days and months had passed and there were 

no signs of Rama coming, and the Rakshasa always returned, 

unabashed by previous insults, to press his suit. She could not 

endure her situation any longer. So, as soon as Ravana went 

away, she went near a tree with the intention of ending her 

life there. But just then Hanuman revealed himself to her and 

told her that he came from Rama. The sound of that beloved 

name fell like angel's music upon her ears — it was the falling 

rain that bathed her heart which was fading away under the 

shadow of despair. Hanuman gave her Rama's ring as a sign 

that he was the genuine messenger of Rama. She set her eyes 

on it. How shall we describe her, says the poet, how she 

changed, and what she said when she beheld that well-remembered 

ring ? What will be the joy of the dead man if he starts back 

into, life ? What will be the joy of the bereaved mother when 

she sees her deceased child brought back to life ? What will be 

the delight of the blind man when he gains the use of his eyes ? 

Even such joy and such delight were Sita's when she saw that 

mute messenger of Rama's love. She took it into her hand, pressed 

it to her eyes, pressed it to her lips, pressed it to her bosom. 

Her whole frame swelled with joy — she smiled, she wept. Rama's 

ring was the philosopher's stone that turned her fading colour 

to gold. She blessed Hanuman with a fervent, heartful blessing : 

' O thou that brought'st me the message from Rama and 

gavest me life — a father thou to me and mother, and a fount 

of loving mercy besides — thou hast earned glory for this life 

and for all time to come. O hero of the mountain chest ! O 

thou who has lifted a heavy burden from off my heart ! If 

I be one who knows not ill, if my heart be pure and conduct 

right, may my blessing never fail, may eternity be to thee like 

unto a day, and live thou for ever and for ever ! ' 

She then took from her head her head-ornament and handed 

it over to Hanuman desiring him to give it to Rama as a sign 

of her trust in him. 

Hanuman, however, did not want to cross back to the continent 
without giving a taste of his prowess to the people of Lanka. Ha 


destroyed groves and palaces, felled down the Rakshasas that were 
sent against him, and, when taken prisoner before Ravana, defied 
him. Ravana commanded that Hanuman's tail should be set on 
fire .but when it was aflame Hanuman leaped all over Lanka 
lashing his tail far and wide, and thus burning down the Rakshasa 
capital he leaped back to the mainland. He himself escaped the 
effects of the Are through the blessing of Sita who prayed to the 
God of Fire to spare him. 

Rama learned from the lips of Hanuman that Sita was living 
a life of. martyrdom. His wrath was roused and he commanded 
Sugriva's army to cross over to the island. The Vanaras built a 
bridge by throwing big rocks and trees into the channel separating 
Lanka from the mainland, and over it the Vanara army marched 
to Lanka. And the great war began. 

» The war was a war of heroes. The first day Ravana himself 
led his army. But before the sun set his army was gone, his 
Chariot was broken into pieces, his bow was split in twain, his 
very sword was broken in his hands. The chivalry of Rama 
saved him his life. And he warned him that he was doomed 
unless he gave up Sita. Ravana, however, did not speak a word 
and returned silent and sullen. Says the poet, ' he grieved not 
that all the foes he used to mock in ancient days would now jeer 
at him ; but he grieved that Sita of the lance-like look would 
smile at his empty boasts and mock at his wordy valour.' As 
a soldier and warrior he wonders at Rama's valour and strength. 
He tells Malayavan, his grandfather, 

' When all my mighty strength was being crushed 

By clouds of darts from his death-showering bow, 

Think'st thou that there was care in his look ? Oh no. 

His tranquil face showed careless sport, not war ! 

I've faced the thunderbolt of Heaven's king, 

The triple lance of awful Dhurjati, 1 

The flaming disk of Vishnu, first of Gods, — 

But what are they to Rama's fiery dart ? 

Of all the masters of the art of war, 

Though Vishnu is the first, I did believe 

That none could strive against great Kartavir ; 

But even he isn't worth the fallen dust 

Of Lakshman's feet ; what then of mighty Ram ? 

I tell thee, father, it humbled Ravan's valour. 

Oh father, if Janaki of patience like 

1 Shiva. 


The earth, should see his feats of valour on 
The field, she'd hold the God of Love himself 
And me as nothing better than tailed curs.' l 

However, a few words from Mahodara, his chief minister, 
were sufficient to make Ravana forget the prowess of his adversary. 
At Mahodara's suggestion Ravana's brother, Kumbhakarna was 
awakened from his age-long sleep. But when he came to know 
the purpose for which he was called, he advised Ravana to give 
up Sita. Ravana paled with fury when he heard his words. * I 
called thee not to seek thy advice ', he said. ' I thought thou 
wert a warrior bold — I did not know that thou hadst forgotten all 
thy valour. Thou may'st go and worship men '. A Rakshasa of 
immense size and a hero of faultless valour, Kumbhakarna was 
wounded at his brother's words. 'Pardon me my hasty words,' 
he said, ' I shall take my club and go to battle. But think not 
that I shall come back bearing victory or my life. At least after 
my death, O my brother, release Sita and save thy life with 
honour. If they conquer me and live, O lord of Lanka, be sure 
that they would vanquish thee. So, at least after I shall have 
died on the field, give up that Pearl of Chastity. Pardon me any 
wrongs that I may have committed against thee. Thy blessed 
face I am not given to see again. I take thy leave.' So saying, 
he went forth to battle. And Ravana wept. 

Now another of the brothers of Ravana, Vibhishana by name, 
had left Ravana when he refused to give up Sita, and was now 
with Rama. With Rama's permission he came to Kumbhakarna 
and advised him to come to the side of Rama. The reply of 
Kumbhakarna was most heroic. He said, 

' It is right to warn a misguided king and point to him 
his good. But when he persists in his evil course and he is 
doomed to fall, is it not infinitely better for me to die before 
him than live to see him fall ! He is lord of all the world, 
the most valiant among the valiant, the bravest among the 
brave. Shall he enter Yama's kingdom 2 alone and without 
a brother by his side ? It is appointed that Rama shall end 
Ravana. Shall I who have vanquished even the God of 
death bow down before a mere man, and he my brother's 
foe ? Go back, my brother, and live with the victor, for 
though a Rakshasa, the creator has made thee virtuous and 
good. As for me, let me do the duty I owe to my liege and 

i VI v 17, 23, 25, 27, 30. « The other world. 


lost my life in his .fight, j But not alone shall I die ! Hanuman, 

Sugriva, -and -Vali's ,son— rWhy, none of the monkey kind shall 

return alive if they are rash enough to fight today." 

The battle began. The Vanara army swayed to and fro 

unable to bear the shock of Kumbhakarna's attack. Great was 

the loss on the side of Rama. Wherever he. attacked/ 

Kumbhakarna carried death with him. But at length Rama's 

arrow cut oS his head and the Rakshasa army was annihilated. 

In the meantime, at Lanka, Ravana was again pressing Sita 

ta accept him. This time also he experienced the same repulse. 

Sita's reply is superb and it is impossible to conceive of greater. 

heroism or devotion on the part of woman. Neither the majestic 

form of the Rakshasa king, nor his prosperity — for the gods were 

his servants — , nor his fame had any attractions for her. She 

said in the course of her superb reply : 

■ ' Think not I love my wasted form, think not I love my 
life. Think not that I fear to die and earn a glorious name. 
It is not fear of death that makes me live and endure thy 
hateful words. The hope of once again seeing my blessed 
lord — whose ornaments are his virtues — it is this alone that 
reconciles me to life. I long to see the day when, with 
Lakshmana guarding his holy person, his arrows shall send 
thee to the other world ; and that is why I do not yet end 
myself.' , . 

It was in the course of this interview that messengers brought 
to Lanka the news of Kumbhakarna's fall. And great was the 
grief of Ravana. . . 

But the war went on,; . And his passion for Sita increased 
with every defeat. 

Ravan's son Meghanada, who was called Indrajit for having 
conquered Indra, next led an army against Rama. Twice he was 
victorious, but the third time- he was completely routed. He too, 
whom the poet admiringly describes as the first among those who 
wield the bow, grew hopeless. And with trembling heart and 
awe-filled look he told Ravana that it was useless to contend 
against Rama and Lakshmana and that the release of Sita alone 
would save the kingdom. 

When he heard these words Ravana laughed a great laugh. 
And in lines pregnant with heroic thought Ravana addressed his 
son : 

' It is not with the hope that those , who have hitherto 
died on the field would bring me victory, it is not with the 
hope that those who yet Jive would win me success, it is not 


with the hope that thou wouldst vanquish me my foes — 
it is not with any of. these hopes that I provoked this foe- 
I relied on myself and myself alone and entered into' this war- 
Keep thy niddering 1 counsel to thyself, son. This mortal 
frame, in duration like a bubble on the waters, I would fairo 
lay down on the battle-field in full sight of the Devas, earning" 
fame that will never have an end — but I will not give up- 
Sita. Is it for releasing her that I possess twenty arms T 
Even should I fall, even then, so long as the Vedas will last 
my name will also stand, if Rama's name will live. Death 
is certain— no one escapes that — man today is, tomorrow he 
ceases to be — but when does Fame cease to live ? Let me 
send away Sita, then who will count me as Ravana ? The 
very gods will laugh, and casting their fear away will come 
and besiege this my city. Even if I be doomed to fall, it is not 
in me to stoop to littleness ; have I not carried my victorious 
arms to the ten 2 directions ? As for thee, thou may'st go 
to thy home and, removing the barbs from thy arm, thou 
may'st rest on thy couch sleeping both day and night.' 
And in the same breath, like a tiger enraged he thundered 
forth, ' Bring me my war-chariot ! ' 

Indrajit was cowed. He fell at his father's feet and begged 
to be pardoned. 'I go ' he said ; ' but I shall not return. May 
better counsels prevail at least after I am gone.' So saying the 
doomed Rakshasa went back to the battle-field. 

A fierce battle did he fight. Like a lion at bay he fought 
with desperate valour. But an arrow from Lakshmana's .bow 
ended him and he fell a headless corpse. 

When Ravana was informed of his death his grief knew no 
bounds. Tenderly does the poet sing of the father's inconsolable 
grief at the loss of his heroic son. I shall give the purport of 
but one stanza here. " If thy Gandharva, Yaksha, Siddha, and 
Rakshasa wives, silver-tongued they one and all, will fall at my 
feet and ask me ' where is our lord ? ' shall I only weep in chorus 
with them, my son ? " Mandodari, the mother of Indrajit was 
even more inconsolable. The poet depicts with sympathy the 
poignant grief of the mother's heart. Here is the translation of 
two stanzas : 

' When like the waxing moon, thou grew'st in years, 
I had the fortune, my son, with pride to see 

' niddering = a simpleton. 

2 eight cardinal points, the heavens above and nether regions. 


Thee conquer Indra ; but now thy headless corpse 
To see and mourn — O son, what have I done 
To behold this plight ? And still I cling to life, 
Inconstant life ! 1 

In olden blessed days, 
With tinkling anklets when thou wert yet a child 
Slow-crawling on the ground, thou brought'st a pair 
Of fierce lions and made them fight like rams : 
When shall I once again such sight behold ! ' 2 

And she has forebodings that Ravana's life too is doomed. 
She says, 

' Of all the hosts that out of Lanka marched 
To meet in battle Rama and his force, 
None has as yet with life returned. Alas ! 
Like stubble they have gone, at touch of fire ! 
Alas ! I fear that Sita's sacred charms, 
Destiny-like will drive my Ravan too 
To an untimely, gory death ! 3 

But evil counsels still prevailed. The first day's awful 
massacre, Kumbhakarna's fall, the death of Indrajit, the failure 
of numbers of armies that were despatched after that, from none 
of these did Ravana learn his lesson. He was destined to learn 
it only at the cost of his life. 

Determined to make one bold and final stand he collected 
his army and himself marched at its head. Grand was the sight 
of that army. The mighty form and fierce aspect of Ravana 
■created a panic in the Vanara army. The Rakshasas fought with 
■desperate valour. But Rama and Lakshmana and Hanuman 
■encouraged their forces and re-established their line. Ravana 
fought like a lion of the forest. But his hour was come. And 
Rama bent his Kodanda 4 and out sped his fearful arrow direct 
to Ravana's heart. 

It quenched his three crore years of mortal life, 
It quenched the strength of all his austerities, 
It quenched the word of Brahma granting him 
Perpetual victory ; it quenched his strength 
That bent the world beneath his awful rule ; 
It pierced his adamant chest and quenched his life. 
Such was the force of Rama's sacred dart. 5 

1 VI xxviii 47, 2 VI xxviii 49. 

» VI xxviii 53. * The name of Rama's bow. 

S VI xxxvi 198 


So Ravana fell. But even when he fell there was a majesty 
about him which the poet describes with the greatest admiration : 

•His mighty wrath, fierce as the untamed lion's 
Was quenched in blood ; his awful strength was gone ; 
His powerful arms had ceased to move ; his love 
Consuming like volcanic fire, which filled 
His heart, had ceased to beat ; but the hero's face 
Kv'n at that awful moment wore a look 
Of majesty, surpassing all its splendour 
Ev'n of days when saints and Rishis had 
To flee from his oppressive rule I 1 

So the prophecy was fulfilled and the world was freed once 
more of the spirit of evil. 

Sita was released from her prison. But her trials were not 
ended. Rama insulted her in sight of the assembled leaders and 
army saying that women of honour in her condition would have 
committed suicide and not have lived in the enemy's city for one 
whole year. The whole assembly wept at these cruel words. 
Sita's heart was broken. She asked Lakshmana to prepare a fire 
so that she might end herself in the flames. But when she fell 
into the fire, the Fire would not burn her. On the contrary, the 
God of Fire was burned by the fire of her purity ! And Rama 
now accepted Sita. 

The fourteen years of exile were now over. Rama, Sita and 
Lakshmana travelled homeward in an aerial car accompanied by 
Vibhishana and the Vanara army. 

In the meantime, Bharata saw the last day of the fourteenth 
year dawn and yet there were no signs of Rama's coming home. 
He had never forgotten that Rama was sent into exile for his sake 
and the thought had been consuming him every day these 
fourteen years. So he lit a fire with the intention of burning 
himself to death. Rama, however, had always in his mind 
Bharata's vow and that was why he travelled in the aerial 
car. To provide against every eventuality he also sent swift-flying 
Hanuman to where Bharata was, to tell him of his coming. 

Hanuman surprises Bharata in the act of walking round the 
fire and assures him of Rama's approach. Rama also arrives 
soon, consoles Bharata, and offers to crown him. But Bharata 
refuses the crown once again and Rama is crowned Emperor of 
Aryavarta to the delight of all the worlds. 

i VI xxxvi 201. 



The 'reader Will have noticed that the Ramayana follows 
in its natural order the life of the hero from his birth and 
childhood up to the close of the action which forms its theme. 
On the other hand the epics of Europe, as is well known, follow 
their prototype and example, the Iliad, and start the story as 
near the end as possible, filling in the earlier events by slight 
allusions as well as by episodic narrative. These epics have an 
undeniable advantage over the Indian Maha Kavyas in that 
their dramatic opening arrests the imagination even at the very 
commencement of the poem, while the Indian epics have to 
gather some momentum before they are able to carry with them 
the attention of the modern reader. But our great epic poets 
have proved that one may tell a story in chronological order and 
yet write a poem that generations will not willingly let die. 

It is Aristotle that first formulated the rule that the story 
of the epic should not bs told in chronological order. He says 
in the 23rd chapter of his Poetics as follows : 

" Concerning the poetry which is narrative and imitative 
in .metre, it is evident that it ought to have dramatic 
in the same manner as tragedy and should be conversant 
with one whole . and perfect action which has, a beginning, 
middle, and end in order that, like one whole animal it may 
, produce its appropriate pleasure, and that it may not be 
after the fashion of histories in which it is not necessary 
to treat of .one action, but of one time. . . . Hence in this 
respect also Homer will appear to be divine when compared 
with other poets, because he did not attempt to sing of the 
whole Trojan War though it had a beginning and an end. 
For if he had, it would have been very large, and not 
sufficiently conspicuous, or if it had been of a moderate size, 
it would have been intricate through the variety of incidents. 
But now, having selected one part of the war, hp has made 
use of many episodes such as the catalogue pf ships and 
other such ones with which he has. embellished his poem." 

1 Into the Midst of Things. 


Horace has followed Aristotle closely, and he too has given. 
his sanction to this canon. For after praising Homer's maimer 
of beginning the Odyssey he says in his Art of Paltry, 

"To sinf of the return of Diomed, the poet doel not 
ascend up to the death of Meleager ; in singing of the Trojan 
War he does not begin with the two eggs of Leda. On the 
other hand, he hastens with the .reader into the very midst 
of the action 1 taking for granted that he is fully acquainted 
with the story." 

The authority of these masters — to which we should add 
also the example of Virgil — has overshadowed all later literary 
criticism, and we find almost all European poets and critics make 
a fetish of this rule and bow down before it. Milton followed 
it consciously and* deliberately as we see that he uses the very 
words of Horace in his argument to the First Book of the 
Paradise Lost ■ ' which action passed over, the poem hastens into 
the midst of things ' etc. Boileau writes in his L'art Poetiqve 
in this wise : " Away with those halting rhymers whose 
phlegmatic spirit would make them preserve the order didactic 
even in their elan ! Poor annalists, who while singing the 
exploits of a hero follow the order of events ! They dare not 
leave one incident out of sight. Apollo was never liberal with 
his fire to such as these ! " 

Dacier, Boileau's contemporary, was so much obsessed with 
this rule that he wrote a very elaborate commentary to the 
following effect on three lines of Horace : 2 

" Horace reveals here one of the greatest secrets of the art 
of poetry. A historian always follows the order of events. But 
the order which poets follow in the treatment of their subject 
is entirely different. For in the drama, as in the epic, the great 
masters place the opening of the scene as near to the catastrophe 
as possible, and take hold of the action always near the end. 
Their art enables them to bring back before our eyes all that had 
gone before. Homer, Sophocles and Euripedes have never 
departed from this rule, and it is an admirable one. For in 

i In medias res, non secus ac notas, auditorem rapit. 
2 Qrdini* hoec virtus erit et venus, out ego jailor, 
Ut jam nunc dicat, jam nunc debentia did, 
Pleraque differat, et prozsens in tempus omittat. 
These lines may be translated thus : ' In the matter of the order of 
% poem, merit and gracefulness consist, if I am not mistaken, in saying 
at the commencement those things that ought to be said in the beginning, 
and in postponing several things to the end, abstaining from treating them 
In the beginning of the poem.' 


postponing the catastrophe which we are awaiting every instant, 
and in interposing between it and us a series of probable and 
natural incidents, they awaken our curiosity and excite in us 
one after another all the passions — a thing which a methodical 
arrangement can never do. In order to be convinced of the 
truth of this, one has only to read Apollonius of Rhodes who 
has written a poem on the Argonauts. Longinus admits that 
there is not a single fault in this work ; but it is mortally weary 
reading. One could give several reasons as to why this should 
be so, but the principal reason is its chronological sequence. It 
is methodic throughout, and that is the worst error into which 
an author could have fallen ; for there are none more cold than 
those poets, 

' Who singing of a hero the exploits grand 
Poor annalists, pursue the events' course.' 

" Vida has treated at length this question of arrangement in 
the Second Book of his Poetics, where he says finely that the 
reader, carried by the art of the poet to the very end of an 
action, and filled with a vain hope, commences the reading of 
the poem with the greatest alacrity believing that he is very 
near the conclusion of the story, just as a man who sees his port 
imagines that he is about to enter into it ; but he is much 
farther from it than he imagines — he is fated to retrace his 
course and fly over many a sea. He then adds that a wise poet 
will never begin, to take an example, the Trojan War at the 
judgment of Paris and place every incident in its natural order 
as if he were writing annals or a journal and not a poem." 

We have quoted these extracts at some length purposely 
as we want the reader to realise how deep and widespread is 
this superstition in the West with regard to the order of narrative 
in the graver poems. But, as we have said before, our epic 
poets have shown that the rule in question is not as absolute 
as western critics seem to imagine. For our poets have followed 
the chronological order in their great poems, and yet have 
succeeded in producing epics that are as fresh today as when 
they first issued from their lips. Valmiki sang our first national 
epic. He has called it variously as the Life of Rama, the 
Destruction of Rauana or the Grand Story of Sita, and in fact 
the whole life story of Rama and Sita up to "the overthrow of 
Ravana is described in its natural order in the epic proper. And 
yet the interest of the story never flags for a moment in the 


whole course of the poem which is very nearly three times as 
long as Homer's Iliad ; on the contrary the interest grows steadily 
until the very end is reached. The same will be found to be 
the case with the Mahabharata if we remove the didactic portions 
like the Shanti and the Anushashana Parvas, which seem to 
have been added by our sires to the main story in order to give 
it an encyclopaedic character. Our own poet Kamban has not 
departed from the chronological order in the treatment of his 
poem, and yet the whole story in his hands rises into a crescendo 
of interest from the commencement till the very close of the 

As a matter of fact, it is not the ' hastening into the midst 
of things ', or ' the taking hold of the action near the end ' that 
has given Homer the first place among the poets of the west 1 . 
But rather it is his superb knowledge of the human heart with 
all its joys and sorrows, and his love of Nature in all her aspects, 
joined to a rich imagination and a noble earnestness of purpose, 
all guided by the indefinable but supreme quality of poetic tact 
that knows how to make all the parts adhere together into a 
single organic whole — it is these we say, that have made him 
the greatest of western poets and the Iliad the greatest of 
western epics. The liquid flow of his story and his majestic style 
are but the natural results of these grand qualities. But npt 
satisfied with giving Homer the first place among the poets of 
the West, or even, if they pleased, to satisfy their chauvinistic 
pride, the first place among the poets of the World, European 
critics have made him into a sort of tyrant of the Republic of 
Letters, raising every single trait and trick of his grand poems 
into an immutable law which every other poet disobeys at the 
cost of his reputation. 

The rule in question, however, is so artificial that none can 
give any substantial reason as to why it should be so. We have 
seen above how Vida supported it. But we wonder if any 
reader has ever deluded himself on reading the opening lines 
of the JEneid that Mneas was at the end of his labours and was 

i It is out of our province to discuss here the unitarian authorship 
or otherwise of the Iliad or the Odyssey. The question is far from being 
settled as yet. But we may take it that there was a poet in Asia Minor 
who called himself Homer and who had a great deal, to do with the 
Homeric poems. We shall in this study merely accept the tradition, and 
always speak of the Iliad and the Odyssey as the works of Homer. There 
Is the - same difficulty with regard to the authorship' of the original 
Samskrit Ramayana. Here also we shall only accept the tradition and 
generally speak of it as the production of Valmiki and Vatauki alone. 


going immediately to plant the seed of the Roman Empire on 
Italian soil. l Nor do we believe that the opening lines of the 
Iliad or the Odyssey create the delusion that the end of the 
narrative is not far off. Such a delusion might conceivably be 
induced in the minds of scholars who are deciphering an unknown 
poem in a forgotten language ; but how can we suppose that 
the reader of any well-known epic will believe that his business 
as reader and the poet's business as narrator is going to end at 
the very threshold of the poem ? Great poets are able, of 
course, by their supreme art to throw us off our guard at the 
oritical moments of the story and make us hope and almost 
expect that a great misfortune that threatens the hero may pass 
over, and may not materialise. But the delusion that Vida and 
Dacier require to support the dicta of Aristotle and Horace is 
something entirely different, and we do not believe that any 
reader of the great western epics has ever experienced such a 

The real advantage of opening the story near the end of the 
catastrophe consists in this that the interest of the reader is 
captured at once at the very commencement of the poem. But 
this method has a compensating disadvantage in that the poet 
is obliged to cry halt to the action before he has proceeded very 
far, a,nd to narrate the earlier portions of the story which are 
bound to be much less interesting than the main action. Even 
the greatest poets have to beat time with flat verses till they 
judge that the epic has drawn itself out to a length sufficient 
to allow the taking up of the main thread of the story. On 
the other hand, the chronological order followed by eastern 
poets, if it makes the beginning of the poem plain and unadorned, 
has this great advantage that the interest of the story gathers 
force in an ever progressive degree to the very end of the poem. 

Thus Kamban's Ramayana is divided into six books. The 
First Bo,pk describes the birth and education of Rama and his 
marriage with Sita on whose beauty and spotless chastity turns 
the catastrophe of the epic. In this book we have many 
episodes, most of which may well have been suppressed. In 
the Second Book, we have the plot of Manthara and Kaikeyi 
to thwart Rama's coronation, and as a consequence to bring 
about Rama's exile to the forests. The Third Book, which is 

i The reader will have noticed how this view conflicts with that ol 
Horace when he says, 'in media* res, non aecus ac notas, auditorem 
rvpit' — the poet hastens the reader into the very midst of the action, 
taking for granted that he i» fully acquainted with the storv- 


called the Jungle Book, brings Havana upon the scene, who 
carries away Sita from Rama's cottage home in the forest. This 
forms the seed of the action proper of the poem. The Fourth 
Book is episodic in appearance, but in reality it introduces to 
us the Vanara hosts who are to play such a large part in the 
war. The character of Vali is superbly drawn, and we are made 
to feel that we can .never have enough of this hero's majestic 
words. The next book, distinguished as the Book of Beauty 
gives us the sublime picture of Sita standing firm in her chastity 
in the midst of temptations and threats. This increases tenfold 
our moral indignation against Ravana and prepares us for the 
war in the last book which is called the Book of Battles, and in 
which is described with great power the fall of Ravana's generals 
and finally of Ravana himself. 

It will be seen from the above that Kamban is able to make 
the story rise steadily in interest from beginning to end. 
Compare this with the Paradise Lost, written by one of the 
greatest poets of any age or country but who felt himself bound 
by the example of the Iliad and the rule of Aristotle which we 
have quoted above. In this poem the four books from the fifth 
to the eighth deal with the war of the angels in heaven and the 
creation of the world and man ; while the eleventh book and 
the greater part of the twelfth deal with the vision of the future 
.shown by the Archangel Michael to Adam. But these books, 
though they are beautiful in themselves, and are artfully soldered 
on to what goes before and after, still create the impression that 
the action is interrupted merely for the sake of the episodes. 1 
If even Milton has found it a difficult matter to make his 
episodes organic and integral parts of his epic, it is no wonder 
■that lesser poets who have submitted themselves to this canon 
of Aristotle have been unable to keep their episodes from bulging 
Out of the general cadre of their story. 

Thus we see that the rule of opening the epic in medias res 
has at least as much disadvantage as it has advantage, while the 
chronological method, if it does not ensure an arresting beginning 
to the poem, has at least the advantage of keeping it from 
turning sloppy in the middle. 

i It is indeed a question if the tendency on the part of later poets 
to introduce the earlier portions of the story episodically as if narrated 
by one character to another, is not due to Aristotle's dictum, based on 
the example of Homer, that the author of an epic should seldom speak 
himself, but should throw as much of this work as he can into the 
mouths of those who are his principal actors. 


From treating the story chronologically flows another result, 
namely that the poet is able to make the main story occupy a 
longer period of time than if he followed Aristotle's rule. This 
may not be considered an advantage by western critics. But 
there seems to be a greater fullness of life and greater stateliness 
in an epic which deals poetically and with art with the birth 
and youth and manhood of his hero and his achievements. 

But after all these are secondary matters. If we prefer the 
chronological treatment of the oriental epics for their steadily 
increasing interest and for their greater stateliness, we are not 
blind to the grand poetical qualities of the epics as understood 
by Homer and Milton. We can appreciate the art that takes up 
the action near the catastrophe and is able to weave into the 
story the details that give it greater volume and fullness. We 
elaim only that the in medias res theory should not be raised 
into an absolute rule, disobedience to which ipso facto throws 
the epic into the second rank. 

I think we may conveniently consider here the length of 
our epic. Kamban's Ramayana contains 10,569 stanzas of four 
lines each. Being about thrice the length of the Iliad, it may be 
thought to be over-long for an epic. But Valmiki's Ramayana 
in the southern recension, contains 21,018 shlokas, the vast 
majority of which consist of two lines each. 1 The Mahabharata 
goes up to 100,000 shlokas. And Chand Bhat's Prithivi Raj Rasa 
is said to be at least as long as the Mahabharata. 

There is of course no fixed rule as to how long an epic 
should be. Dandi, a Samskrit critic, only says that it should 
be asamkshipta, that is, not short. It is of course allowed by 
western as well as eastern critics to be so long as to be incapable 
of being read through at a single sitting. And if it cannot be 
finished at one sitting it does not matter how long it is, provided 
that it is rasabhava-nirantara i.e. satisfies our sense of the grand 
and the beautiful by appealing to the higher emotions in an 
artistic manner. 

We have heard of a Japanese novel, of which even the 200th 
volume or so which has been recently 2 published has not brought 
the end of the story in view. This story makes, we need not 
say, an extreme demand upon the patience of the reader, but 
even here we do not know if the book finds any detractors in 
Japan on account of its length. However, while we are not 

1 We exclude from the , calculation the Seventh Book which is of the 
nature of the cyclic poems of Greece. 

2 About 1920. 


prepared to go as far as the author of our Japanese novel, we 
can allow the epic poet to choose for himself how long he will 
make his poem. If popularity with the mass of the people, as 
well as with the learned, is a test of the justness of a poet's 
choice as to length, we find that Indian epics, long as. they are, 
have been listened to from beginning to end without flagging 
enthusiasm as they are read and explained by Pandits during 
evenings continuously for many months at a stretch. And as 
Kamban's Ramayana holds the reader's interest sustained up to 
the very end, we cannot condemn it as excessively long, but on 
the contrary we should be thankful to the poet for providing us 
with such abundance of rich and delicate food for our 
imagination and our spirit. 



The build and the structure of the Ramayana of Kamban are 
superb. The poem satisfies the soul with its ampleur, the 
proportion of its parts, and the art with which the parts are 
combined into an organic whole. It is true that the story follows 
the order of events chronologically. But there are a hundred 
ways in which a story can be narrated even in the chronological 
order, and it is in the choice that the poet makes from among 
these that we see whether he is the supreme artist or an ordinary 
writer. And Kamban has shown his genius for the architectonics 
of poetry both where he follows Valmiki as well as where he 
departs from his order. 

The question of the build of the epic is not treated in detail 

in any of the treatises of rhetoric in Samskrit that have come 

to light up to now. There must have existed books which 

examined this question deeply, for we cannot imagine that a 

people who have laid down elaborate rules for the construction 

of the drama could have neglected such an obvious subject of 

critical study as the detailed anatomy of the epic poem. These 

are either lost to us or are waiting to be discovered in the 

Bhandaras 1 of our temples and of our States. The rhetorical 

works that have been printed up to now discuss generally only 

questions of style, figures of speech, and the emotions as subjects 

of poetical treatment. The Mahakavya Lakshanas, so called, are 

not much more than lists of what subjects should be necessarily 

treated or described in an epic. 

In the Kavyadarsha, however, Dandin, after describing ten 
figures of speech finishes with three shlokas on what he calls 
Bhavika. He says, 

" Bhavika is said to the essential quality of the 
Prabandha or poem ; for bhava is the idea of the poet as to 
how he should arrange the poem and set forth its parts. The 
mutual harmony of the parts both in the subject matter as 
well as in the canto divisions ; the leaving out of useless 
incidents and the placing of everything in its proper place ; 
the individuality and character in the treatment even of the 
sublime which comes of a vigorous diction and well-ordered 

l archives. 


words — all this is the result of bhava, i.e., the inner poetical 

sense. And the right employment of the bhava gives rise to 

the quality called Bhavika." 

In the above lines is contained, though in mere skeleton, the 
-whole theory as to how the epic, as any other kind of long poem, 
.should be constructed. It is interesting to compare these lines 
with the words of Aristotle in reference to the same matter, that 
the epic should be a unity like one whole animal. The animal 
has different organs, no doubt, but all its organs adhere together 
perfectly to make up that one animal. The author of the 
Mahabharata too, we may note in passing, compares his work to 
a majestic tree with branches and stem, and fruits and flowers, 
but which in its entirety is a single whole. The epic, therefore, 
should be a unity, with parts of course, but parts which go to 
make up and show off that unity. 

Now the one action of the Ramayana, as Valmiki proposes in 
the beginning of the poem, is the destruction of Ravana, and 
«very incident of the story contributes to this end. This idea is 
never absent from the mind of Kamban. When Tadaka, who 
comes to spoil the sacrifice of Vishvamitra, falls by the arrow of 
Rama, she looks, according to him, ' like Ravana's standard of 
victory felled down to the ground as a foreboding of his future 
fate '. When Kaikeyi yields to the evil advice of Manthara, it is 

Because the promise must be fulfilled now 
That Vishnu to the gods had made, because 
The gods did work their maya, and the saints 
Had earned the fruit of virtuous deeds, and cup 
Of Rakshas sins was full, — her heart was hardened. 
For if the world to-day the ambrosial strains 
Of Rama's praise doth drink, doth not it owe 
The joy to Kaikeyi's cruelty ? 1 

And when Ravana lies dead on the field, Mandodari lamenting 
his death says, among other things, 

The fairy charms of Sita, her chastity 
Divine, the passion of my Ravana, 
Shurpanakha's disgrace, and banishment 
Of Rama by command of the King of kings, 
All these and more, what are they but the fruit 
Of Indra's great austerities ? 2 

1 II ii 77, 78. 2 VI xxxvi 241. 


Here we see the poet referring all these different incidents: 
as leading but to one only end, namely, the destruction of Ravana, 
for it is only after Ravana was destroyed that Indra could get back 
his heavenly kingdom. 

Let us now examine the plot of the Ramayana in some 
detail. In the beginning of the First Book, the destruction of 
Ravana is proposed, and Vishnu Himself promises to come into 
the world as the son of Dasharatha and destroy the Rakshasa. 
The interest of the reader is from that moment fixed upon Rama, 
the avatar of the Supreme God, and all his doings. The First 
Book is taken up with the exploits of Rama's youth and his 
marriage with Sita who is the incarnation of Lakshmi. The 
killing of Tadaka, the episode of Ahalya, the love of Rama for 
Sita and of Sita for Rama, Rama's bending and breaking of the 
mighty bow of Shiva, Parashu Rama's pride and its punishment, 
all these form a number of varied incidents interesting in 
themselves and at the same time calculated to make the reader 
expect high things of Rama. The march of this book is rather 
slow owing to the various episodes that are cast in the form of 
stories told by Vishvamitra to Rama and by Shatananda to Janaka. 
The journey of Dasharatha to Mithila which Valmiki describes 
in but one or two shlokas is elaborately described by Kamban in 
four Patalas l which take up about 300 stanzas. This is a great 
deal too much. But these patalas occur in the First Book before 
the epic has gathered its proper momentum. Moreover, many of 
the stanzas in these cantos are of great idyllic beauty. 

In the Second Book, Rama's character is magnificently 
developed in his attitude towards Kaikeyi, Kausalya, and 
Lakshmana. The story too marches rapidly. The conversations 
between the several persons here are pitched in a high key, and the 
nerves of the reader become highly strung even at the thousandth 
reading. Between every one of these meetings, the pitch is lowered 
a little for the reader to take breath before he is confronted with 
the next scene of high-strung emotion. The art with which the 
climax is prepared in the meeting with Sita can never be 
sufficiently admired. The struggle of Dasharatha between his love 
of Rama and love of Truth, his anger against Kaikeyi, his despair 
at the charioteer's return without Rama, the whole contrast 
between Rama's expected coronation and his banishment, Bharata's 
renunciation, Guha's attachment to Rama, his suspicion of and 
indignation against Bharata and his subsequent recognition of his 

1 Chapters. 


sublime nature, the rivalry in the heroism of renunciation between 
Bharata and Rama — all these make the Second Book a superb 
piece of work. 

In the Third Book, the first thirteen years of Rama's life in 
the forests are passed over very rapidly though not without the 
poet reminding us of the purpose of Rama's avatar. In the 
fourteenth year, Shurpanakha's passion for Rama unchains the 
series of incidents that end with the death of Ravana. The fight 
in which Rama annihilates the fourteen thousand Rakshasas who 
come to avenge Shurpanakha gives us a foretaste of the magnificent 
battle-pieces with which Kamban fills his Book of Battles. 
Ravana's passion for Sita is described in a very extravagant way. 
Our idea of probability requires that Ravana should have seen 
Sita at least once before his soul could be fired with a desire to 
possess her at whatever cost. Tulsi Das has felt this and so he 
introduces Ravana as one of the suitors to her hand at the 
Swayamvara at her father's court. The extravagance of Kamban's 
description of Ravana's passion however, faulty as it is, has a 
meaning, for only such a passion can explain Ravana's persistence 
in keeping her in spite of the worst defeats and disasters. Rama's 
going after the golden deer and Sita's fatal obstinacy in sending 
Lakshmana after Rama are narrated with great skill. Ravana 
now meets Sita alone in the cottage. The poet expends all his 
art in the colloquy between the disguised Ravana and Sita, and 
the bursting of the false form and the revealing of Ravana in 
his true shape are made to take place exactly at the right moment. 
The battle of the Vulture-King provides a heroic and touching 
episode to this book and Ravana carries off Sita without further 
hindrance. Kamban shows his sense of the fit in not describing 
at this stage, as Valmiki does, another interview between Sita and 
Ravana, in Lanka. It is only in the next book that he describes 
the first meeting of Sita and Ravana after her captivity, and he 
merely suggests their previous interviews by one sentence put in. 
the mouth of Ravana : 

'The days are passing one by one away, 
And this is all the kindness thou hast shown 

Tome! 1 

Lakshmana's adventure with Ajomukhi is but a repetition of 
llama's with Shurpanakha and is therefore superfluous, but 

• i V iv. 26. 


Kamban employs it to reveal to us the deep love that Rama hasr 
towards Lakshmana. Kabandha closes, as Viradha began, the 
adventures of Rama and Lakshmana with the Rakshasas in the 
Forest Book. These three incidents have the same kind of 
fairy-tale ring about them as the adventures of Ulysses with the 
Cyclops and Circe have in the Odyssey. 

The Fourth Book introduces to us new characters in the- 
Vanaras of Kishkindha. The poet exhibits to us the intensity of 
Rama's desire to avenge his wrongs when he makes him determine 
the death of Vali the moment he hears from Hanuman that Vali 
had deprived Sugriva of his wife. The single combat of Vali and 
Sugriva, Vali's fall, his reproaches against Rama and final 
acceptance of the justice of his punishment, all these form one of 
the finest episodes in the poem. The Fourth Book ends with the 
sending of the Vanara host in all directions in search of Sita. 

In the Fifth Book Hanuman, the favourite servant of Rama, 
discovers Sita. Ravana's interview with Sita, Sita's despair, 
Hanuman's delivery of Rama's message, his desire to leave a mark- 
in Lanka worthy of his might, his subsequent capture, his release,, 
his setting of Lanka on fire, and his return to Rama crowd this- 
book with a multitude of shifting scenes each flowing from its 
predecessor as a natural and inevitable consequence. 

The Yuddha Kanda or the Book of Battles is at least as long 
as the Iliad. The scene opens in Lanka charred by the conflagration 
started by Hanuman. The Council of the Rakshasas is less 
interesting than the debate in the Second Book of the Paradise 
Lost, but the episode of Hiranya is magnificent. Vibhishana 
recites to Ravana the story of the great Asura who was destroyed 
for his pride, and advises Ravana to avoid a similar fate by sending 
Sita back to Rama. Ravana, of course, refuses to listen to this 
advice and war begins. Every battle is a masterpiece, and 
there is hardly a repetition in the descriptions of such a multitude 
of battles. The reader will see in subsequent pages that the 
battle-pieces of Kamban cannot at all suffer by a comparison^ 
with Homer's best battles. But battles are not all the contents 
of the Yuddha Kanda. In this book scenes of the deepest pathos 
alternate with scenes of grand-souled heroism ; despair and hope, 
and hope and despair weave their light and shade about the heroes 
and heroines, the terrible and the sublime play about us in all 
their grandeur. The story gathers fresh force and animation at 
every step till the death of Ravana. The poet, however, does 
not stop here but desires to enhance the glory of Sita and bring 
out into greater prominence the virtue of Bharata. And so, we 


have the ordeal of Sita which raises our feelings to a pitch which 
almost bursts our hearts. Bharata's sensitive heart is next 
presented to us in his sublime determination to expiate his 
imagined share in his mother's sin by falling into a fire that he 
has kindled. And the poem ends sweetly with the coronation 
of Rama and the happy announcement that all the worlds were 
contented and in peace. 

Now the plot In almost all its details is Valmiki's. But if 
Kamban takes the situations from Valmiki, he has treated them 
absolutely in his own way. In the manner of developing the 
situations, in the gradation by which the climax of each situation 
is brought about, in the justesse which knows how to bring out 
all its capabilities out of each situation, we feel the touch of the 
master-artist. In the manner also in which the incidents have 
been joined together to form the whole, no ordinary skill has 
been displayed. Every limb of Kamban's story is of course 
familiar to the student of Valmiki. But on going through the 
whole poem of Kamban, one is constrained to exclaim, ' here is a 
building which is built on the same plan no doubt, and with the 
same materials, but which possesses a striking individuality of 
its own '. 1 

l Further remarks on Kamban's skill in the Architectonics of poetry 
will be found in the succeeding chapters where the characters are 
examined and studied in greater detail. See especially chapter XI where 
the episode of Vali is examined closely with special reference to 


Every epic has got a supernatural element in it which 
interlaces itself with the human element in the story, and the 
action of both these elements in themselves as well as in their 
interaction form together the warp and the woof of the whole 
story. Thus we have in the Iliad and the Odyssey and the ASneid, 
Zeus and Juno, Minerva and Mars, Neptune and Apollo who 
interfere directly or indirectly with the actions of the several 
human heroes, ^Eolus who could unlock the winds and lash the 
sea into a tempest ; and similar beings endowed with more than 
human power and strength, and with ability to move from heaven 
to earth and from earth to heaven with ease. In the Paradise 
Lost Milton introduces Satan and Beelzebub, Raphael and Abdiel, 
the Messiah and even God Himself as the chief actors in the 
story along with Adam and Eve. In his Les Martyrs Chateaubriand 
brings into play Satan and other fallen angels, the Spirit of 
Jealousy, the Spirit of Vengeance, the good angels and God as 
some of the protagonists of his story. In a similar manner, all 
other epic poets have in some way or other made use of the 
supernatural element in order to give more than ordinary 
importance to the action which they celebrate in their epics. The 
taking in of the aid of the supernatural in Epic Poetry has become 
such a universal habit that even Pope thought his Rape of the Loclc 
not dignified enough without the play of this machinery, and so 
he introduced in his revised edition elves and fairies which 
certainly add to the interest of the original poem. 

In our Ramayana also, the supernatural element plays a very 
important part in the action of the story. But it is, as is natural, 
of a character different to that of the western epics. It is always 
difficult to adjust the focus of one's mental vision to the conditions 
of a world different from that to which it has been previously 
adjusted ; and it is this difficulty that is to a large extent responsible 
for most of the criticism that those whose taste is formed on a 
study of the western epics alone are used to make against eastern 
epics. We should draw the attention of such critics to the words 
of Mr. Mark Pattison which he uses in connection with the 
Paradise Lost, but which are capable of being applied with equal 


truth to all epic poetry and even broadly speaking to every fine 
art. He says, 

" The world of the Paradise Lost is an ideal, conventional 
world, quite as much as the world of the Arabian Nights or 
the world of chivalrous romance or that of the pastoral novel. 
Not only dramatic but all poetry is founded upon illusion. 
We must, though it be for the moment, suppose it true. We 
must be transported out of the actual world into that world 
in which the given scene is laid. It is chiefly the business of 
the poet to effect this transportation, but the reader (or 
hearer) must aid. If the reader's imagination is not active 
enough to assist the poet, he must at least not resist him. 
When we are once inside the poet's heaven, our critical faculty 
may justly require that what takes place there is quite 
consistent with itself, with the laws of the fantastic world. 
But we may not begin by objecting that it is impossible that 
such a world should exist. If in any age the power of 
imagination is enfeebled, the reader becomes more unable to 
make the effort and he ceases to co-operate with the poet. 
Much of the criticism of the Paradise Lost which we meet with 
resolves itself to the conditions that the poet demands, a 
determination to insist that his heaven peopled with deities, 
dominations, principalities and powers shall have the same 
material laws which govern our planetary system. It is not, 
as we often hear it said, that the critical faculty is unduly 
developed in the nineteenth century. It is that the imaginative 
faculty fails us ; and when that is the case, criticism is 
powerless — it has no fundamental assumption upon which its 
judgments can proceed." 

A sympathetic understanding of the nature and conditions of 
the conventional world postulated by the poet is therefore 
indispensable to the critic if his criticism should be rational and 
fruitful. Such an understanding is equally necessary for the 
simple lover of poetry who desires only aesthetic enjoyment. So, 
we propose in this chapter to give an account, necessarily brief, 
of the nature of the supernatural beings that take part in the story 
and of the miraculous machines of destruction used by them as 
well as by the human heroes in their battles. 

''** There are mainly two classes of beings which partake of the 
character of the supernatural in the Ramayana. They are the 
Rakshasas and the Vanaras. We shall take the Rakshasas first. 
They are beings of enormous power and size, and should be, strictly 
speaking, labelled as preternatural beings. Ravana has ten heads. 


Trishiras has three heads. Some other Rakshasas and Rakshasis 
have heads of horses, wolves, jackals, lions, etc. By performing 
great and severe tapas (austerities) these Rakshasas have acquired 
enormous physical strength and many magical powers. They can 
bend the bow with such force that their arrows can break to 
pieces the rocks hurled against them by their enemies. They can 
assume whatever shape they please at their will. They can fly 
through the air with or without aerial chariots. They hold other 
worlds than this terrestrial world in subjection under themselves. 
They can create automatons looking like human beings or 
Rakshasas. In short they possess all the powers and qualities that 
are attributed to the gods in the Greek mythology. As a class, 
the Rakshasas hate virtue and doers of virtue and love a life of 
vice and luxury. Destruction and humiliation of men and gods 
are their chief delight. 

Besides the ordinary powers and strength of the Rakshasas, 
Ravana possesses some very extraordinary powers. He is able to 
lift with his hands the great Mount Kailas with Shiva Himself 
enthroned upon it. He fights and conquers the Ashta-dik-gajas — 
the eight immense mammoths — elephants which are supposed to 
bear aloft the universe from its eight sides and corners. The 
God of Death and Varuna 1 have to acknowledge defeat at his 
hands. The Sun and the Moon, and Fire and Wind obey his every 
wish. The very seasons obey him, and come and go at the slightest 
expression of his will. In short his austerities have earned for 
him from Shiva and the other gods power and strength only short 
of omnipotence. 

Gods as such do not take an active part in the story. They 
have been conquered by their enemies, the Rakshasas. Their 
world, the Svarga, is in the hands of Ravana. Their wives and 
daughters are working as maids to the Rakshasa ' women ' in 
Lanka. They themselves are doing menial service to their 
Rakshasa masters. Their king Indra is a wanderer away from his 
kingdom and throne. Even the Supreme Three 2 have been 
defeated by Ravana and live under a self-denying ordinance, 
resolving not to interfere with his doings till the strength of his- 
austerities has begun to wane. 

But at the command of Vishnu — one of the Supreme Three— 
who is the one designed in this age to destroy the evil and 
unrighteous Rakshasas and Asuras, the gods are born as Vanaras 
or giant monkeys on earth. But while they are born on earth,. 

1 Rain-God. 2 Brahma, Vishnu: and, Shiva. 


they keep also their own divine bodies in Svarga, or wherever 
they are for the moment. The Vanaras are therefore spoken of 
both as the sons of the respective gods as well as their 
incarnations. The Vanaras, at least their leaders, have the same 
preternatural strength and courage as the Rakshasas. They can 
also assume at will whatever shape they please. They can leap 
over immense distances of space. Hanuman, the greatest of the 
Vanaras, can fly across the sea from the mainland to Lanka and 
fly back. Again he flies to the hill of drugs situated far north 
of the Himalayas and returns with the hill in his hand in the 
course of a single night. He can grow as high as the heavens 
and pervade the world with his body. Angada and Sugriva are 
almost equal to him in strength but do not possess his pervasive 
power. The strength of the Vanaras is such that they can tear 
trees and rocks by the roots and hurl them against their foes. 
The reader will not be far wrong if he imagines the Vanaras 
as possessing almost all the strength and powers of the gods of the 
Greek epics. Only, unlike the latter, they compose the entire 
army of one of the combatants in the war. 

Garuda and Sampati and Jatayus must be classed separately 
among the supernatural and preternatural beings of the Ramayana. 
Garuda is the great golden eagle, the Vohan or carrier of Vishnu. 
He is the enemy of all serpents and he appears on the battle-field 
to free Lakshmana and the Vanaras from the serpent noose of 
Indrajit. At his mere approach all the serpents of the noose 
either die or slink away. Jatayus and Sampati are vultures — the 
sons of Aruna, the charioteer of the Sun, and they are the Icarus 
and Daedalus of Indian story. They had tried to fly up to the very 
Sun and had fallen down scorched by his fierce rays. Jatayus, 
the younger, was protected from being burnt by Sampati who^ 
shaded him from the sun and had his own wings burned off. At 
the period of our story, Sampati lives on the Mahendra hill at 
the southernmost point of the mainland, till the choral repetition - 
of Rama's name makes his wings miraculously to grow. Jatayus 
is the friend of Dasharatha and so Rama has a tender filial affection 
for the noble Vulture-King. Jatayus, as the reader will remember, 
attempts to prevent Ravana from carrying off Sita, but after a 
terrible struggle falls mortally wounded by Ravana. 

These are about all the preternatural beings that take part 
in the action of the epic. Although Rama and his brothers are 
divine incarnations, Kamban, like Valmiki, treats their actions 
as those of mere human heroes, only endowed with some 
extraordinary powers. For instance, Kamban does not gift Rama 


with the pervasive power or enormous size and strength of 
Hanuman, though everywhere he reminds us that he is the Supreme 
One who is immanent in everything and who transcends even 
the Three Persons of the Trinity. In fact, Rama and his brothers 
are human in their actions and their physical condition, though 
they are divine in their ultimate nature. 

But if Rama and Lakshmana are merely men in their actions, 
they possess the power to command the gods to do their bidding 
even as Ravana and the Rakshasa leaders have. We speak of their 
power to convert their arrows by means of mantras or spells into 
weapons possessing the power of Agni and Vayu, 1 Shiva and 
Vishnu and Brahma, and other deities. Arrows thus impregnated 
by spells are called Astras. It is these astras that deserve to be 
called machinery, a term which western critics are used to apply 
to the supernatural beings etc., that influence the action in the 
Tliad and other epics. 

The astra should be imagined by the reader to be an arrow 
which the spell, pronounced by the bowman at the time of aiming 
it, converts into a weapon possessing preternatural power, generally 
the power of a god. Thus the Agneya-astra must be supposed to 
be an arrow which the spell of the archer impregnates with the 
Shakti or force of Agni, the God of Fire. Such an arrow must 
be imagined to fly against the enemy carrying living fire in its 
bosom and burning down everything before it. Similarly the 
Varuna-astra would be the weapon possessing the force of Varuna, 
the God of the Ocean, and hence would be aimed against the 
Agneya-astra whose fire it would extinguish. The Maheshvara- 
astra would be an arrow filled with the force of God Shiva or 
Maheshvara, the Narayana-astra would be an arrow filled with 
the force of God Narayana or Vishnu, and the Brahmastra would 
be a dart filled with the force of Brahma, and so on. The 
Naga-pasha or the serpent-noose must be imagined to be an arrow 
or a succession of arrows which the appropriate spells convert into 
deadly serpents which bind themselves round the bodies of the 
■enemies and strangle them. Kamban speaks also of the 
Maya-astra which creates any illusion that the sender pleases 
before the eyes of the opponent. In rare cases, incantations are 
supposed to be pronounced upon other weapons than arrows," a^rd 
then these weapons, — sometimes even a blade of grass serves as 
a weapon to the expert in the science of astras — become the 
appropriate astras. 

■ 1 Fire and Wind. N « 


The reader will observe that when an astra is aimed against 
an archer, his obvious defence according to this convention would 
be to send against it an astra of superior power which would 
conquer or neutralise it. Thus arrows would wrestle against 
arrows in mid-air, each armed with the force given to it by the 
respective archers. 

Out of all these astras, the Brahmastra is supposed to be the 
most powerful, though" in one or two places Kamban speaks of 
the Narayana-astra and Maheshvara-astra as equally or even more 
powerful weapons. These astras are to be supposed to rush 
through the air with fatal force, giving birth, both on their way 
as well as when they strike the enemy, to innumerable destructive 
machines and even beings such as cobras, demons, etc. The 
torpedoes and shrapnels, and flame-throwers and poison-gas shells 
and similar destructive weapons so abundantly used in the late 
war are the analogues of the astras of the Ramayana. And who 
knows if the first ideas of some of the terrific weapons of modern 
times were not put into the heads of their European inventors by 
the description of the several astras mentioned in the Ramayana ! 

Rama and Lakshmana on the one side and the great leaders 
of the Rakshasas on the other are described by the poet as great 
experts in the science of astras. Rama's arrows have another 
peculiarity in that they come back to his quiver after doing the 
destruction for which they were sent. 

Although the gods do not take part in the action of the story 
except through the astras, they make their appearance sometimes 
in their own persons in the course of the action. Thus, when 
Bharata persists in inviting Rama to come back to Ayodhya, the 
Devas who are standing around unseen by the assembled people 
pronounce a command, which is heard as a disembodied voice, 
that he should himself go back and rule the kingdom for fourteen 
years. Again Rama and Lakshmana see Indra approach 
Sharabhanga in order to offer him residence in his own heaven. 
Matali, the charioteer of Indra, is ordered by the gods to drive 
Rama in the heavenly vimana or air chariot of Indra during the 
final battle with Ravana. And finally the gods and the deceased 
Dasharatha come down on earth at the time when Sita falls into 
the fire and advise Rama to take her back to himself. 

• We believe we have now placed before the reader all that 
is necessary for a proper understanding of the conventional world 
in which the action of the Ramayana unfolds itself. Now we 
shall take up the study of the more important characters of our 
story and see how Kamban treats them in his epic. 



In the delineation of character, Kamban stands on a level 
with the greatest poets of the world. The lines are drawn with 
a firm hand, and the characters are painted with such accuracy 
and fullness that from any single sentence, and sometimes even 
from a single phrase in a speech, one can tell the person speaking 
without any the least doubt. 

Here too, naturally, Valmiki has set the stamp on the 
characters of the Ramayana. But in Kamban's hand they have 
become much more grand. The student of Valmiki will wonder 
how his Rama and Bharata, Ravana and Kumbhakarna, Vali and 
Hanuman, Sita and Kausalya and the rest could be improved. The- 
fact, however, is there that Kamban's heroes and heroines are 
beings of a decidedly higher stature than those of Valmiki. 

The idealisation of Rama is not solely or chiefly the work 
of Kamban. The fact is that the Rama of Valmiki has so 
captivated the heart of Hindusthan that the whole nation has 
expended on him all the love and devotion of which its rich nature 
was capable. The Tamil Alwars, and especially Kulasekhara the 
Chera Prince, have given literary expression in their devotional 
verses to the popular pronouncement that Rama is the Supreme 
Narayana Himself in human form. In Kamban's time, therefore, 
the ideal man had grown into very God, the mere repetition of 
whose name with devotion would lead unto heaven. What 
Kamban has done is to give the impress of the master-artist to 
the character that had grown into its fullness and grandeur by the 
devotion-filled meditation of generations of the sons of India. 

This, however, was no ordinary task. It is easy to pile epithets 
upon epithets and constantly repeat that Rama was a divine king. 
But to create the poetical impression of the divinity of Rama's 
character and to maintain the epic in all places at the level that 
will alone harmonise with such an impression is a vastly different 
thing. And Kamban has eminently succeeded in this extremely 
difficult task. 

With regard to the other characters, and especially with 
regard to the Rakshasas, the heightening of the colour is mainly 
Kamban's work. With the instinct of the born artist, Kamban 
must have seen that the idealisation of Rama alone without 

RAMA 47 

raising the other personages of the story to a similar height of 
-character would not produce a harmonic whole. And so he has 
made his Ravana and Indrajit, Sugriva and Angada, Kausalya 
and Mandodari much grander characters than they appear in 
Valmiki's poem. And although Valmiki's Bharata is one of the 
finest creations of poetry, the little touches that Kamban has 
given to the figure have rendered Bharata's virtue even more 
resplendent than in the original Ramayana. 

With these preliminary observations, we shall examine more 
closely the characters of Kamban's Ramayana, .giving greater 
attention to the more prominent characters therein. 

Rama, of course, will claim our first attention. In three or 
four places Valmiki has deified Rama. Even these passages, 
however, modern critics regard as interpolations. But, howsoever 
this may be, everywhere else in Valmiki, Rama is only the valorous 
prince, perfect in virtue, but nothing more than a simple mortal 
man. In Kamban, however, it is rare to meet with any reference 
to Rama which does not indicate his divinity. He is the Supreme 
Lord, he is Narayana, he is the one that sleeps the sleep of 
wakefulness in the Ocean of Milk, he is the Great One whom 
even the Vedas have not seen. If he runs after the golden deer, 
' he sets forward the foot that measured the three worlds '. If 
Rama and Sita love each other at first sight, ' is it not the meeting 
again of those that were together in the Ocean of Milk, and were 
separated only for a while ? ' It is the same from beginning to 
end. But this constant deification of Rama does not stand in 
the way of the most human emotions being attributed to him. 
He feels all the anguish of separation from Sita. He is stunned 
on hearing of the death of his father. He is affected by the simple 
affection of Guha and the self-reproach of Bharata. He weeps 
at the fall of Lakshmana in one of his encounters with Indrajit, 
and is beside himself with grief at the report that Indrajit had 
murdered Sita. And yet we do not feel that there is anything 
unnatural in Rama's human acts and emotions. There is the same 
mingled divinity and humanity about Kamban's Rama as about 
the Christ of the Gospels and of the Paradise Regained. 

The fascination which the character of Rama has exercised 
upon the mind of Hindusthan is a measure of the great art with 
which our poet, among others, has delineated him. Rarely has 
literature anywhere taken upon itself the task of creating such 
valour and such virtue. And still more rarely has it risen to the 
level of such a creation. 

And what a character is that of Rama ! All the qualities 


that belong to the hero are to be found in him to perfection. He 
is the very personification of valour. He is not elated even when. 
the imperial crown is offered to him. Valmiki's Rama announces 
to his mother the fact of his prospective coronation with just a 
touch of joy. And to Lakshmana he says with greater 

' Rule thou this kingdom with me, O Lakshmana. This 
fortune is for thee too who art my other self. Life and the 
crown I desire for thy sake more than for myself.' 
But Kamban takes care not to put even these words into the 
mouth of Rama. He says, 

' When Dasharatha had finished, the Lotus-eyed One was 

not elated, neither despised he the gift. But, feeling that it 

was his duty to obey his father's commands, he consented ! ' 1 , 

After this, Kamban does not allow Rama to speak a word in 

the poem till he makes his grand reply to Kaikeyi. 2 By this, 

Rama is made to appear more stoic than in Valmiki. The poet, 

as the reader is aware, draws pointed attention to this stoicism at 

this place. And he calls it again to our mind when he describes 

Sita's thoughts while she is a captive in Lanka. She would think, 

he says, 

' On that face, which, both when asked by his father to 
accept the imperial crown as well as when commanded by his 
mother to leave all and live a forest life, like the pictorial 
lotus was ever the same ! ' 3 

Another effect of this stoical calmness is that Rama not only 
does not himself accuse Kaikeyi anywhere, but deprecates others 
accusing her. When Lakshmana rages against her on hearing of 
Rama's exile for the first time, Rama calms him saying, 

' They blame not streams if water sometimes fails ; blame 

thou not then our king, nor her our mother : 'Tis fate that 

drives us on, my brother ! Why then this rage ? ' 4 

A fine sidelight is thrown on this trait in Rama's character 

when the poet makes Bharata say to his mother, when she 

announced to him that she had exiled Rama for his sake, 

' Thou livest yet ! And still my spell-bound hand 
Leapeth not forth to finish thee ! Did not 
I fear that Ram, my sovereign, would resent 
The deed, shall ev'n the name of mother stay 
My arm from slaying thee ? ' s 

1 II i 70. 2 See p. 9. 'V iii 20. 

* n iv 134. 5 II ix 72. 

RAMA 49 

Note here how the poet raises Rama in our estimation by 
making Bharata say that Rama would never tolerate the slaying 
of Kaikeyi even for her triple crime. 

But it is not only that Rama forgives Kaikeyi her evil. He 
retains his former love for her even in his exile. For among the 
many things that Sita wants Hanuman to remind Rama about, 
she says, 

" And when I had a parrot fair I loved, 

I asked my lord what name he liked to give 

To her. And he with tenderness replied, 

' Give her my virtuous mother Kaikey's name.' " x 

If Rama, however, is a vairagi 2 , when it is a question of his 
own personal fortunes, he is tender as a woman when he sees 
others suffer. Thus when he sees Lakshmana's princely hands 
engaged in building a cottage for him ih the forests, he exclaims 
to himself thus : 

' The flower-like tender feet of Janaka's child 3 
Are strong enough to tread the jungle paths ; 
And Lakshman's hands are skilled to build for us 
A tasteful cottage home. Ah, those whom Fate 
Has helpless cast upon the world, what's there 
That they'll not learn to do ! ' * 

The poet again touches on this side of Rama's nature when 
he makes Sita recall to mind while in the Ashoka grove in Lanka, 

The pain of Rama when he saw his brother 5 
Wear not the crown upon his head, but wear 
The dusty twisted knot of hair. 6 

The grief of Rama at the fall of Lakshmana, in one of Indrajit's 
battles, is pitched in a higher key : 

Now he would plough the ground with his limbs ; now 
he would heave heavy sighs ; now he would swoon away 
as in death ; soon coming to himself he would act as one who 
knew not what he was doing ; suddenly he would cry aloud, 

1 V vi 83. 2 Stoic. 3 Sita. * II vjii 52. 

5 Bharata. when he came to forest to invite Rama to take back the 
Crown that Kaikeyi had deprived him of. 
« V iii 25. 



' Lakshmana, O Lakshmana ! ' Then he would place his hands 
under Lakshmana's nostrils, and call out, ' Livest thou, my 
child ? ' 

Again he would gently press Lakshmana's feet with his 
lotus hands ; he would pat his thighs ; he would look intently 
into his lotus eyes, fair like fresh-gathered flowers ; he would 
listen at his heart to see if it was yet beating ; he would look 
at the heavens ; he would lift up his body and place it 
against his heart ; then he would lay it down upon the 
ground ; suddenly he would exclaim, ' Is the foe fled away ? ' 
He would look at his bow and then at the deadly noose 
thrown by the enemy ; he would look at the night that 
appeared as if it would never end ; he would look at the gods 
that were crowding in the heavens ; he would want to tear 
the earth itself up by its roots. 

He would cast his eyes on the heroes assembled round ; 
he would think of the fate that had brought about this 
misfortune ; once again he would look at his powerful bow 
and then at his arrows ; and then he would cry aloud, ' Has 
ever man suffered like me ? ' 1 

We shall close the study of this phase of Rama's character 
with one more extract. Seeing that it was difficult to overcome 
his enemy by pure force of arms, Indrajit wanted to destroy their 
morale and so he created an automaton resembling Sita, breathed 
life into it by his magic art, cut off its head in the presence of 
Hanuman, and flew away upon his aerial chariot saying that he 
was going to invade Ayodhya. When Hanuman brought this news 
to Rama, Rama's grief knew no bounds, and he swooned away. 
At length, rising from his trance, Rama spoke these words : 

' It seems my curse ends not with Sita ev'n : 

Needs must it swallow up my race ; nor know 

I now whom else it will destroy. O Lord ! 

Is there an end to this ? and then, my brothers, 

Will they be spared ? In his aerial car 

Faster than thought, the foe towards Ayodh 

Has flown, and is returned. The home that gave 

Me- life, is shattered now, while Sita here 

Has fallen under the murderer's knife ! What else 

Is coming, I know not, nor welcome death 

I find !' 2 

1 VI xviii 222-225. 2 VI xxv 78, 79. 

RAMA 51 

This capacity for poignant suffering is but the obverse of 
Rama's naturally affectionate disposition. The poet does not 
forget to point out that even as a child Rama had kind words and 
sweet looks for the veriest strangers. When Vasishtha approves 
-of Rama's coronation, he says, 

' 'Tis little if I say he loved all men 
Ev'n as he loves himself : the love he bears 
To thee, ev'n that's the measure of his love 
To all things living.' 1 

When the rough forest king Guha comes to see him on the 
banks of the Ganga, Rama is so moved by his love for himself 
that he begins to love him as if he were a blood-brother. And 
so ,when Guha desires to accompany him southward and serve 
him all the fourteen years of his exile, he addresses to him these 
feeling words : 

' Thou art dear to me as life : and this my brother 
Is brother to thee as well, and this fair one 
Is kin to thee ; and all the sea-girt earth 
Is thine of right whilst I adventure on, 
Thy duties doing. Happiness comes to us 
Alone in the wake of misery. Grieve not 
Therefore that now we part : we were but four 
Before : to-day with thee we're brothers five 
Attached one t'another with loving bonds. 
Lakshman, thy brother, is here to suffer all 

For me 

Thy other brother Bharat is there to guard 

Our kindred in the north ; now tell me who 

But thee can guard our kindred here ? Thy men, 

Are not they mine ? Then stay thou here and watch 

O'er them till I return. ' 2 

Such was the depth of Rama's affection for Guha that Sita 
in her lonely stay at the Ashoka grove would go into raptures 
when she remembered, 

how Rama said to Guha, humble forester as he was, 

' Lakshmana is thy own brother, and Sita here is brother's 

wife to thee ! ' 

Two others Rama loved with the same kind of brotherly 

1 II i 38. 2 II vi 68-71. 


affection — Sugriva, whom he swore to avenge as soon as he heard 
that his elder brother Vali was hounding him, and Vibhishana, 
who was disgusted at the conduct of his own brother Ravana in 
refusing to send back Sita, and who had come to Rama as a 
refugee from Lanka. So, when he crowns Vibhishana as King of 
Lanka, he tells him, 

' When Guha joined us on Ganga's banks, 

I counted myself blessed with brothers four : 

Sugriv to me a fifth did add ; and now 

With thee we are become sev'n loving brothers. 

Blest verily is father Dasharath : 

One son he banished to the forests wild, 

But sons on sons do grow on him, and bless 

His royal name.' 1 

Towards Bharata and Lakshmana and Hanuman, Rama's 
affection grows into a tenderer plant. We have referred to 
Rama's grief at seeing Bharata coming to the Chitrakuta hill clad 
in hermit's weeds. He has few occasions to exhibit his love for 
him in the course of his wanderings in the forest and the war 
with the Rakshasas. But Bharata is never absent from his heart 
even for a single moment. And the memory of his sublime nature 
was one of the most dearly prized companions of his lonely 
thoughts. For when he sends a message through Sumantra to 
Ayodhya from the threshold of the jungle country, he asks him 
to request Vasishtha on his behalf to console Bharata in his grief 
when he should hear of his exile, and asks him also to tell 
Bharata not to be angry with his mother for having brought about 
his banishment. When Lakshmana, seeing Bharata approach 
towards where Rama was on the Chitrakuta hill, charges him with 
desiring to kill Rama, Rama expostulates with him and says, 

' It is thy love to me, brother, that makes thee blind to 
Bharata's virtues. I regard the Vedas themselves as no more 
than commentaries on Bharata's life. Is it the part of wisdom 
not to see that it is his love for me that draws him here and 
that he must be coming here to offer me the crown ?...." 
Can'st thou suspect thus our Bharata, the touchstone of" 
honour, the very God of supreme Virtue ? ' 2 
How near Bharata was to Rama's heart is shown in a more 
pointed manner by the poet when he describes the single combat. 

1 VI iv 146. 2 II xii 44, ,45. 

RAMA 53 

of Vali and Sugriva. As Sugriva and Vali were wrestling with 
each other, Lakshmana spoke to Rama condemning the conduct 
of Sugriva in having invited him to kill his own brother. But 
Rama said, 

' If all 

Were 'like in their devotion to their brothers, 
How can my' Bharata be placed the first 
I' th' list of loyal brothers ? ' l 

The reader will not fail to notice the veiled blow aimed at 
Lakshmana himself 2 who must have been proud, and not without 
reason, of his unwavering loyalty to his brother Rama. This 
veiled cut at Lakshmana by praising Bharata. is suggested by 
Valmiki himself, but he introduces that sentiment at the time 
when Rama is consulting his council as to whether they should 
admit Vibhishana into their camp as an ally. And Valmiki makes 
Rama say there — and Rama is addressing both Sugriva and 
Lakshmana at the time — , 

' Not all brothers, child, are like Bharata, 
nor all sons like myself ! ' 

This snub is more cruel being administered in the presence 
of others — though friends — while the self-praise takes away 
something from the character of Rama. The situation that 
Kamban has chosen for the expression of the sentiment, and the 
.suppression of the self-praise show him once again the grand 
connoisseur as well as artist that he is. 

But the superior praise given by Rama to Bharata does not 
mean that he loves Lakshmana less. In fact, how could he love 
anybody more than his inseparable companion who had left all 
and was suffering all for his sake ? We have referred to Rama's 
feelings when he saw Lakshmana building him his cottage and 
also when Lakshmana was brought down by the Naga-pasha of 
Indrajit. We may say that Rama regarded him as his own child. 
For did not Sumitra tell Lakshmana in his own presence that he 
should look upon Rama as a father ? And was not Lakshmana 
doing him every service that a son does to his father ? 

i IV v 34. 

2 For if Lakshmana suffered all for Rama, was he not unkind to his 
'Other brother Bharata? > 


And so Rama heaps on him all his tenderest epithets — but 
almost always in his absence. Thus when he finds that what 
Lakshmana had forewarned him of had come true, namely, that 
the golden deer was not really a deer but a Rakshasa in disguise, 
he exclaims to himself, 

' Ah, wise, verily wise is my dear child, the life of my 

life, the soul of my very soul ! ' 

So also when Lakshmana was way-laid by Ajomukhi and 
did not come back in time, Rama went out in search of him in 
the forest and gave vent to his love and anxiety for him in these- 
words : 

' Still he is not come back, the dearest part 

Of my life. Alas, has he sunk 'neath the load 

Of my great grief ? Eyes have I none but him 

To lead me on in this dark wood. How then 

Can I with bleeding heart the jungle scan 

And find out if he lives ? O Lakshmana ! 

My only staff in life ! hast thou the heart 

To hide thy face from me ? Hear'st thou, my child ? 

Hard verily is thy heart ! 

' Sit just to make me roam in search of thee 

As well, my fearless lion, who left thy all 

And followed me ? ' 1 

We shall give one final extract from our poet to illustrate- 
Rama's affection for Lakshmana. When Lakshmana went to- 
fight his last battle with Indrajit, Rama did not accompany him 
but remained in the camp awaiting the result. And this is how 
Kamban describes his feelings during Lakshmana's absence : 

He waited on with an anxious, tortured heart, 
To himself oft repeating, ' sure, he will 
Conquer the guileful Rakshasa,' and praying 
' May Dharma be an armour to my brother ! ' 

And keeping e'er his eyes fixed on the way 

His brother would come, ev'n as good Bharata 
In hermit's robes with many a prayer was 
Awaiting him, at length he saw the march 
Triumphal of his brother towards the camp. 2 

1 HI ix 63, 67, 68, 71. 2 VI xxvii 64. > 

RAMA 55 

The sight drew tears from Rama's eyes. And this is how 
the poet comments upon it : 

The tears that flowed from Rama's lotus eyes 
When he his brother's form descried, were they 
The liquid stream of love ? or were they tears 
Induced by painful memories of the past ? 
Or were they tears of joy ? Or were they but 
The tokens of His mercy infinite ? 1 

The affection of Rama to Hanuman is the affection of a great 
Guru to a great disciple. He honours the learning and wisdom 
and physical strength of the great Vanara. But this respect is» 
warmed by personal affection which arose at the very first sight 
of him, and grew stronger by every day that passed. It is to 
him that Rama entrusts his signet ring and his most intimate 
message to Sita, at the time that he sends the Vanara host in 
search of her. It is to him that he entrusts the ring once again, 
this time in order to prevent Bharata from falling into the fire. 
It is him that he keeps by his side as his constant companion 
and friend, and it is on his joyfully offered shoulders that he 
rides during his great battles with the Rakshasas. 

If we say that Rama was all affection for Guha, Sugriva and 
Vibhishana, and that he loved Hanuman, Lakshmana and Bharata, 
how shall we describe his love for the beautiful, the holy, the 
all-suffering Sita ? It was an all-absorbing love, was his love 
for his incomparable spouse. The great composer of South India, 
Thiyagayya, says that Rama's love for Sita was as unique as his 
loyalty to his pledged word and his skill in archery. 2 That love 
adds new nerve to his lion-like strength at Janaka's court, because, 

The massive bow that like the Meru hill 
Before him lay, he lightly lifted up 
As if it were the wedding garland bright 
For his beloved ! 3 

That love makes him distractedly apostrophise the moon and 
Manmatha 4 on the night previous to the Svayamvara of 
Sita. And that same intense love makes him rave like a 

i VI xxvii 65. 

2 Oka mata, oka banamu, oka patni ! One his word, one his arrow's 
aim, and one his beloved spouse. 

3 I xii 33. * The God of Love. 


mad man when he loses her, and fall down like a lightning-struck 
sal tree when he hears that she has just been murdered by 

Kamban does not describe any entrancing love scenes between 
Rama and Sita. He makes them first speak to each other only 
when Rama desires to take leave of Sita at the time of starting 
for the forest. There is a world of suggestion in their words of 
their happy domestic life, and it is generally by suggestion that 
Kamban speaks of the ineffable love that they bear towards each 
other. Thus while walking towards the country watered by the 
Ganga, Rama and Sita enjoy in each other's company the delightful 
sights of rural nature. They see the swans sporting with each 
other in the distance. Sita sees her lord's feet mock the lotuses 
in freshness of colour and beauty of shape. The blue lotus 
luxuriantly growing in the brooks puts Rama in mind of the soft 
eyes of his beloved Sita. The lake banks where sleep the royal 
swans, the sand dunes in the open country, the groves full of 
young trees and smiling flowers, and the great Ganga herself 
delight their hearts and add romance to their ever deepening love. 
They bathe together in the holy Ganga. They enjoy together 
the wild beauties of the forest, and it is there that Rama's words 
become more and more tender towards Sita. She is Arundhati * 
to him and sweeter than ambrosia. She is his unpaintable beauty. 
She is to him the amrit that rose at the churning of the Milk 
Ocean. She is the sweet-singing Jcoil bird fairer than the dancing 
peacock. She is his light, and the life of womanhood itself. She 
is the fair one that could teach virtue to Arundhati's self. She 
is the one the very thought of whom is ambrosia to him. 

Rama's passionate love for Sita appears most when, at the 
time of giving his final instructions to Hanuman just before the 
Vanaras were sent all over the earth to search for Sita, he dwells 
with delight upon the beauty of her form, and calls to mind the 
little telling incidents of their married and pre-marriage days. 
Thus he tells Hanuman, 

" Even the lotus has its petals pale, 
The moon has got its spot, and where is form 
Of any kind without the slightest fault ? 
-• - 'But thou wilt see no imperfection mar 

Her shapely form. Great Brahma made the flute 

1 The wife of Vashistha held up to all womankind as the ideal of 
wifely virtues and womanly chastity, 

RAMA 57 

And vina, parrots, koils, and children's babble, 

And then he coped all sweetness with her voice : 

But nought could he create to parallel 

Her speech and tone ; and can he e'er succeed 

Jf he should try ev'n now for all his life ? 

Though earth and heaven should search to find its like 

,What can approach amrit l in taste ? And what 

Can e'er compare with the sweetness of her speech ? 

Thou think'st of honey and amrit : but can 

They e'er delight the ear ? 

Remind her that our eyes did first commingle 

When I a stranger came to Mith'la town, 

The while she stood beside the dovecot fair 

In her virgin bower. Recall again to her 

How I beheld her form, like a lightning young, 

And full of grace, at Jan'ka's palace hall. 

Tell her I call to mind her great resolve, 

When I the bow of Shiva broke in two, 

To end herself if I should other prove 

Than whom she saw with holy Kaushika. 

Recall to her my words, when she resolved 

To follow me to wilds unseen before : 

I said, ' O Sita, thou wert a fount of joy 

To me till now : but now thou wilt become 

The source of griefs innumerable if thou 

Persist in thy desire.' And she replied 

With tears in her eyes, ' when thou dost leave 

Thy crown, and take thyself to forest life, 

O love, is everything supportable 

By thee excepting only me ? ' And last 

Remind her how, when we had barely passed 

The gates of Oudh, she stopped and asked, ' Where is 

The forest boundless in expanse ? Are we 

Arrived in it ? ' " 2 

How deep, how tender, how loyal must be the love that 
could treasure up in its heart, and dwell with intense delight 
upon such incidents as these ? 

So when, with the -aid of her magical powers, Shurpanakha 
.takes the shape of a woman of entrancing beauty and approaches 

i The immortal drink of the gods, 
•a IV x 60, 62, 63, 67-72. 


him with lustful intentions, Rama merely exclaims, ' where is the- 
limit to beauty of shape ? ', but his heart is absolutely untouched. 
As the meeting with Shurpanakha brings into prominence the 
unshakeable loyalty of Rama's love for Sita, we translate the- 
scene and give it below almost in extenso : 

And the daughter of duplicity approached, full of sweet 
speech, her feet shapely and soft as the fresh red lotus and 
leaf-buds, her appearance recalling to mind the tender creeper 
and the swan and the young peacock. 

The Goddess of the golden lotus herself would yield to- 
her in beauty ; her face gleamed with the light of her 
lance-like eyes ; and she was like lightning descending from 
the skies. 

Her form had the grace of the Kalpaka creeper ; her 
words breathed tenderness and love ; she walked on like a 
gay peacock, but her eyes she took from the young fawn. 

Her anklets and her belt-bells, her gold garlands and 
the bees buzzing about the flowers in her hair-, announced 
that a fair one was approaching, and Rama turned his eyes 
in that direction. 

She came like softest ambrosia which the Devas were 
delighted to offer and with her waist a little bent under the 
weight of her superb bust, and He who in His mercy openefh 
the eyes of wisdom to His devotees 1 now saw her before 
his eyes. 

He saw that melting form, the like of which was not to 
be found in Svarga or the earth or the world beneath, and 
thought within himself, ' Who can confine the Spirit of 
Beauty ? Where is the limit to beauty of shape ? ' 

And she that was full of desire put into her expression 
all the charm she could command, joined her hands together 
in salute, lightly brandished the lances of her fascinating 
eyes, and softly stepped aside like a young fawn. 2 
After preliminary inquiries, in reply to which she says that 
she is the sister of Kubera and Ravana, Rama asks her what she- 
wants of him, and then the colloquy continues thus : 

' It's hard for fair ones nobly born to speak 

The love that burns their hearts : alas for me, 

My life doth ebb away and there is none 

To help me here. What can I in this plight, ' 

' 8«na 8 III v 31-37. 

RAMA 59 

Save speak to thee in boldness all I feel ? 

I pray thee, save me from the cruel darts 

That Manmath aims at me ! ' Thus boldly she 

Her bad and lust-filled heart laid bare, the while 

Her lightning glances did her tale confirm, 

Whereat Kausalya's son thought in his heart, 

' No shame has she, and evil is her mind.' 

She did not see his thoughts, and once again 

Began : ' I knew not until now that thou 

Wert here : and so my time and youth were lost 

In service done to hermits deemed wise.' 

Quoth Ram, ' The Shastras do such unions 

Condemn as thou desirest : for thou com'st 

Of Brahman stock, and I am Kshatriya born.' 

' If this is all thou urg'st,' said Shurp'nakha 

' I die not yet ; for though my father was 

Brahman, mother was a Rakshas queen.' 

He heard the lustful Rakshasi : the shade 

Of a budding smile suffused his lotus lips 

While thus he spoke : ' The wise declare that men 

Should not damsel wed of Rakshas birth.' 

' What fool I was to say,' thought Shurp'nakha, 

' That I was Ravana's sister ! ' Then aloud 

Quoth she, ' As fruit of great austerities 

I have my shameful Rakshas birth cast off, 

And God has blessed me with this comely form.' 

To her, thus He whom Vedas themselves find 

For e'er to be beyond their utmost depth : 

' If thou art sister to the sovereign, 

As thou dost say, of all the worlds, and if 

Thy other brother is Ruber, afraid 

Am I to marry thee unless they give 

Thee 'way in solemn f orm ! ' ' But know'st not thou,' 

Persisted she, ' Gandharva rites are fixed 

For those like us whom mutual love has joined ? 

When thus our love is sanctified, my brothers 

Will gladly welcome thee. Now they make war 

On holy men ; and full of sin and rage 

Are they ; unaided thou shouldst not approach 

To where they are. When I shall make thee king 

Of earth and heaven, then will they come and serve 

And clasp thy lotus feet.' Ram laughed aloud, 

And said, * with thee as wife, and Rakshas hosts 


As friends, with all the endless wealth that comes 
To me with thee, am I not blest indeed ? ' * 

Although she saw that Rama was mocking at her, she did 
not give up hope. And so, as Sita approached Rama just at the 
moment, she thought that she might be just another woman like 
herself who was come to Rama with intentions similar to her own, 
and she warned him against her saying that she, Sita, was a 
man-eating Rakshasi disguised. But when Sita nestled herself 
in Rama's breast for fear of herself, and when Rama bid her go 
away and went into his cottage accompanied by Sita who was 
still clinging to him, 

She was like one struck dumb, her life was fled. 

Her breath stopped short, nor knew she where she was 

Or what she thought. But jealous thoughts soon rose 

And agitated once again her breast. 

And then she slowly said within herself, 

Deep verily is his love for her ! 2 

That was Rama's love for Sita, a deep abiding love, which 
charms, the most fascinating, could not for a moment alter. 

It was his excessive love for her that made him disregard 
Lakshmana's warning and go after the golden deer himself, and 
thus sow the seed of endless misery to himself as well as to Sita. 
For when Lakshmana offered, as the best of a bad bargain, to 
hunt the deer and bring it himself, 

Pouting her ambrosia-dropping ruby lips, 

Like a sweet-tongued parrot young she lisped, ' Then, thou 

Wouldst not thyself pursue and capture him 

For me ? ', and left him with tears flowing down 

Her cheeks. But Rama could not bear to see 

Her in a pet, and said, ' My golden love, 

Behold I myself go and I shall bring 

Him in a trice.' 3 

So saying he asked Lakshmana to guard Sita in his absence 
And hurried after the golden deer. 

i III v 45-56. 

z III v 70. Aiyer follows a different reading of the 3rd line of the 
-original poem. 

3 III vii 237, 238. 

RAMA 61 

Again when he returned from his fruitless hunt and found not 
Sita, he was 

like the soul that had left the body for a while and 
returning on its way finds it not in its place and mourns its 
loss. He was like one whose all was swallowed up by the 
earth and who had nothing else to call his own. 1 
The depth of Rama's love is again described by Hanuman to 
Sita at the Ashoka grove when he tells her how Rama was grieving 
for her. One stanza must suffice for us. He says, 

' I bless thee, mother, for I have found out at last the 
secret spring of Rama's life. Thou hast not quitted his heart 
and that is why he liveth yet. And where hath he a life to 
part with, when thou his life art here ? ' 2 
It is this same intense love that makes Rama's heart thrill 
at the sight of the jewel that Sita sends him through Hanuman. 
Says the poet, 

He was like a man changed. When the jewel was placed 
in his hands, his feelings were even as on the day when first 
before the holy fire he clasped her hand. 

His hair stood on end ; tears flowed freely from his eyes ; 
there was a tremor in his arms and chest ; sweat drops 
suffused his whole body ; he breathed heavily ; his body 
swelled with joy. Oh, who can tell all that passed in his 
heart ? 3 

There is a blot in Rama's love, but of that we shall speak 
when we come to Sita. Now we shall close the study of Rama's 
character with an examination of his valour, his magnanimity, 
and his loyalty to his pledged word. 

Rama is the ideal hero of India. The great poet Bana gave 
the drama of Rama's life that he wrote, the name of 
Mahaviracharitra — the life of the Great Hero. Shri Krishna, when 
he is describing his own glories as the Supreme One in the tenth 
chapter of the Bhagavad Gita, gives Rama the first place among 
warriors. He says, " RSmah shastra bhrtcim aham" — among those 
skilled in the handling of weapons of war know me to be Rama. 
And Kamban's description of Rama's valour and exploits rises 
fully to the height of such a grand conception. 

Indeed, in a way, the whole story of Rama's life in our epic 
is a story of heroic deeds and valiant fights. Even while he was 
very young, the fame of his strength had spread far and wide, 
and the Rishi Vishvamitra chose him, of all princes and heroes, 

l HI viii 158. 2 V v 77. .3 V xv 82, 83. 


as the protector of his Yajna-bhumi. 1 And great warrior that he 
himself was in the days of his worldly life, Vishvamitra, 
supplemented the military training of Rama and Lakshmana 
during their sojourn with him, with his own special teaching. 

Rama's skill in archery and the strength of his arm are 
admired by the poet at every step. Tadaka's adamantine body 
is pierced by one dart sped from his mighty bow. Vishvamitra 
cannot speak too highly or too often of his strength and skill. 
When Ahalya is freed from her curse by the touch of the dust 
fallen from his feet, Vishvamitra tells him her story and at the 
•end of it burst out with the following words : 

' And e'en the sin of Gautam's wife has been 
Ordained for good : therein I see a hope 
For the suffering world. For in the marvellous fight 
With Tadaka I saw the strength of thine arm, 
And here I see the virtue of thy feet ! ' 2 

Again at Janaka's Court, while introducing Rama, Vishvamitra 
••must needs sing the praises of Rama's valour in three verses : 

' Note thou, my lord, the strength of the beautifully long 
and muscular arms of this manly boy, who is dark even 
as the ocean with its incessant roaring breakers : it was but 
one arrow of his, but it pierced the heart of Tadaka of the 
flaming eyes, and after piercing her heart tore through the 
rocks, and the trees, and the solid earth itself. 

' Endless were the heads of the Rakshasas that fell that 
day and were piled one over another like hills on hills. One 
arrow of his sent one of the Rakshasi's sons to the other 
world : I know not what became of her other son ; but thou 
seest that my yajna is completed and I am here. 

' Again, O king, behold the weapons which I taught him 

to use — weapons that Brahma himself will not find it easy 

to handle. Think of it, even I who taught him their use; 

am astonished at the way that they obey his will and arm.' 3 

Kamban generally takes care that Rama does not boast about 

his prowess himself. But there are occasions when Rama cannot 

but speak of his strength and power himself. For instance, when 

he hears from Jatayus' lips that Ravana has carried away Sita, 

■he bursts out into a terrible wrath and threatens the whole world 

with destruction. Kamban describes his wrath in these words : 

i Sacrificial ground. 2 I ix 82. 3 I xi 26-28. 

RAMA 63 

He scarce had spoke when rushed the blood at once 

To Rama's eyes ; a storm was in his breath ; 

A frown settled on his manly brow ; the spheres 

In terror shook ; the stars their orbits fled ! . . . . 

The worlds lay crouching lest his sudden wrath 

Should burst on them ; when with a smile that meant 

Destruction dire, he thus addressed the bird : * 

' Behold the world on its stable axis moves 

And gods unmoved look on, while in their sight 

A Rakshas carries off a helpless dame, 

And thou art mangled thus in her defence ! 

I will destroy them all in one single ruin. 

The stars shall scattering fall ! The sun shall burst ! 

The void of heaven shall shimmer with the light 

Of burning spheres ! And water, air, and fire 

And all that lives and moves shall soon dissolve 

To their embryon atoms ! And my wrath shall end 

The gods themselves in heaven. And thou wilt see 

The circling universe and all that lies 

Beyond, burst like a bubble in the stream ! ' 2 

When, after the rainy season is over, Sugriva does not bring 
his Vanara host according to his stipulation in order to begin the 
search for Sita, Rama sends Lakshmana to Kishkinda, the capital 
of Sugriva, with the following threat : 

' Tell him,' said Rama, ' that the bow which We 
Have bent to 'stablish Righteousness, and end 
All evil ones, unbroken yet doth rest 
In Our hands ; and let him know that Yam 3 has not 
Yet ceased to work, nor We to handle darts ! 4 

When Ravana's spies are caught and are brought before him, 
he bids them tell Ravana that he would destroy him, even if 
Rudra and Vishnu and all that live in all the worlds come and 
help him, and that he would pacify the spirit of Jatayus by 
sacrificing to it in the blood of his adversary. 

When at the close of the first day's battle Ravana's bows and 
chariots are destroyed, and he stands alone, unarmed, with all 
his army annihilated, Rama addresses him some stinging words 

1 Jatayus. 2 m vaii 201, 203-206. 

3 Yama is the God of Death. * IV viii 4. 


wherein he speaks of his own prowess. Here are some of his 
words : 

' Know thou the gods themselves with all their might 

Win not if unjust is their cause. Thou hadst 

This very day been dead, did not I stay 

My arm for pity sake, because thou stand'st 

Helpless, alone, upon the field. If canst, 

To-morrow bring the flower of thy troops, 

Or seek in flight precarious safety. Listen ! 

If thou send Sita back, and Svarga's throne 

Restore to Indra, and Vibhishan crown 

As Lanka's king, thyself his will obeying, 

Then I my deadly arrows shall withhold. 

But if, perverse, in thy evil thou persist, 

Bring all thy strength and face me on the field. 

Thy evil soul might turn to good if thou 

Should even die by my darts. But think no more 

Thou canst return alive from here.' * 

But such passages where Rama himself speaks of his prowess 
are comparatively rare. The reader gets an idea of Rama's valour 
much more from the lips of the other characters and Rama's acts 
of heroism on the field than from Rama's speeches. The reader 
will remember Ravana's description of his first battle with Rama. 
The terrible Parashu Rama when he sees him bend with ease 
the bow with which he challenged him, bows down his head in 
acknowledgment of defeat and says, 

' I doubt not now that thou art Vishnu's self ! 
Saved is the earth from all her ills, for ev'n 
The bow I gave thee now cannot suffice 
For thy lion strength ! ' 2 

The invincible Vali, as the reader will find in Chapter XI, 
speaks of Rama's valour in no measured terms. And it is his 
valour more than anything else that binds the mighty Hanuman 
and Sugriva to his cause and to himself for ever. And 

it humbled Ravan's pride : 

No further proof thou need'st of Rama's valour. 3 

1 VI xiv 252-255. 2 I xxii 38. 

3 See page 20. We do not describe in this chapter the exploits of 
Rama in detail, as we reserve them for the chapters dealing with the 
Rakshasas, and especially his great adversary Ravana. 

RAMA 95 

If Rama's valour is great and unique, his magnanimity is 
greater and still more unique. We have, seen how he abstained 
from further attacking Ravana when he stood defenceless and 
unarmed on the field of battle. Even while he was a mere youth, 
his chivalrous instincts were so delicate that he would not aim 
his arrow against Tadaka because she was a woman, and 
Vishvamitra had to persuade him hard to attack her, reminding 
him of her violence against all things living that came within 
her reach. The reader will remember that he entertains no 
rancour against Kaikeyi for bringing about his exile. When his 
father descends from svarga and embraces him on the battle-field 
in Lanka at the time of Sita's sacrifice, the one boon that he asks 
of him is to call back the curse which he had pronounced while 
still in the land of the living against Kaikeyi and Bharata. This 
is how our poet presents the colloquy between father and son : 

Thus Ram his father tenderly addressed : 

' When thou wert here below, O father mine, 

Thou didst abjure my mother Kaikeyi 

And Bharata thy lawful son : grant me 

To-day that she may once again be mother 

To me, and he my brother as ever before. ' 

' I grant ', said Dasharath, ' that guiltless Bharat 

Be once again thy brother : but the sinful she,' 

(And the hands that held his Rama to his heart 

Fell limp, the while he spake these vengeful words) 

' The heartless one that robbed thee of thy crown 

And made thee wear these hermits' weeds, shall not 

Escape my curse ! ' The pure one thus replied : 

' The sin was not my mother's, but rather mine, 

That I saw not the kingly office is 

The pregnant source of endless sins and crimes, 

And at thy bidding undertook to rule 

Ayodhya, thyself living. Once again, 

Therefore, let me plead with thee, call back that curse.' 1 

And when Ravana had fallen in battle, Rama does not, like 
Achilles, war with the dead, but directs Vibhishana to perform 
his obsequies with all traditional rites, saying — and how nobly — , 

Although his evil has cleaved our heart in twain, 
Let us forgive ! 2 

1 VI xxxvii 129-131. 2 VI xxxvi 216. 



It is this magnanimity — greatness of soul — which makes him 
the Supreme Sharanagata Vatsala, the lover of the suppliant 
refugee. He is ever waiting with open arms to receive with love 
all, no matter who or what they may be, and whatever the injuries 
they may have done to him, if, relying upon nothing else, they 
take refuge in him. It is this large heart that embraces all, 
forgives all, receives all, that has endeared his name to all the 
children of Hindusthan from generation to generation. And it 
is this same grandeur of soul that has raised him from the 
position of an ordinary emperor to that of the hero of the great 
national epic of Bharata Khanda, l and from the position of the 
epic hero to very godhood. We shall give here some of the best 
instances of the display by him of this grand quality. 

When on his entrance into the forest, the Rishis pray to him 
to protect them against the Rakshasas, Rama offers to them 
unhesitatingly his abhaya, 2 and says, 

If they surrender not, 
My darts will bring them down e'en if they flee 

To other worlds ! 

What use is life to me, 

If I end not the sinners that oppress 

Brahmans of holy vows ? 

Whoso his life 

Does sacrifice for saving Brahmans, cows, 
Or feeble ones, aye whoso sacrifices 
His life for saving other life, behold 
He's worshipped by the gods ! 3 

Although Indra's son had injured Sita disguising himself as 
a crow, and although he himself had aimed against him in his 
anger his death-dealing astra, he yet pardons him when he falls 
at his feet and prays for protection. When Sugriva approaches 
him, worn, weak, oppressed, and hunted by his great brother, 
Vali, and he hears his (Sugriva's) story from the mouth of 
Hanuman, he at once swears, careless of all consequences, that 
he would destroy Vali and place Sugriva on the vacant throne. 
When Vali charges him with attacking him unawares, Rama 
repeats to him the vow that he had taken : 

1 The continent of Bharat — India. 

2 Protection, — literally, immunity from fear. 

3 III iii 17, 19, 21. 

RAMA 67 

' It is my ever-pressing vow to help 

Th' oppressed, the poor, and those forlorn 1 . . . ' 

When Vibhishana, the brother of Ravana, comes to Rama's 
•camp as a refugee from the wrath of his brother, Rama consults 
the Vanara Council as to whether they should admit him as a 
friend or no. Differences of opinion naturally arise, among which 
the most interesting is that of Sugriva who forgets his own past 
record and opposes the admission of Vibhishana on the ground of 
his treachery to his own brother. But, after hearing all of them, 
Rama finally accepts the opinion of Hanuman, giving expression 
Jit the same time to the following grand sentiments : 

' Let there be victory, let be defeat, 

I cast not out the man that refuge takes 

In me. Why speak of this Vibhishana ? 

Let come to me as suppliant the man 

Whose cruel hands my parents, brothers, friends, 

Had done to death. If leaving all other hope 

He comes to me, himself surrendering, 

Thenceforth he is my brother, lover, friend ! 

Ev'n if he does prove false, my glory nev'r 

Would be eclipsed : 'twill only burn more bright.' 2 

He is ready even to forgive Ravana if he would come back 
to virtue and wholly surrender himself to him. For, does not 
Jndrajit himself say to his father, 

' If thou wilt cease desiring Janaki, 

Their 3 wrath will cool, and they will go from hence 

Forgiving us our evil ways.' 4 

Such is the grandeur of soul of this supreme hero ! 

We need not expatiate much on Rama's loyalty to his pledged 
word, because the whole story is hinged and motived on that 
loyalty. But we should not forget that Rama gives as much 
respect to the promise forcibly exacted by his step-mother from 
his father as he gives to his own pledged word. When Kausalya 
prays him not to leave her, he silences her by saying that he 
should not make his father's spoken word a lie. So he would not 
go back to Ayodhya even after his father's death, and even though 

1 IV vii 102. 2 VI iv 108, 109. 

3 Rama's and Lakshmana's. * VI xxvii 6. 


Bharata himself places the crown at his feet. He would not have- 
been the hero that he is, if he had listened to Bharata and if he 
had taken back the crown that he offered to return. 
Satyasankalpa l , and Dridhavrata 2 , these are the titles that he 
loves most, and these titles no hero in story or in life deserves in 
an equal degree with Rama. 

With this we shall close the study of Rama's character. Not 
that we have exhaustively described or even mentioned all the fine 
traits in the character of this great hero. We can write about 
the delicate way in which he manages his friends and allies. For, 
he always knows, as if by instinct, what to say to each and when 
to say. For instance, when he accepts Hanuman's opinion 
regarding the admission of Vibhishana, he makes the rest of the 
Vanaras also accept the opinion cheerfully by saying, 

' But for your excess of prudent care for me, would not 
every one of you have told me yourselves that we should 
unhesitatingly take unto ourselves the suppliant Rakshasa ? ' 3 
And look at the delicacy with which, after removing from 
Sugriva's mind the sense of his defeat in debate by the 
preceding words, he asks him to go and bring him the 
Rakshasa chief. 

We can also write much about the great respect he always. 
shows to his elders, how even when he is obliged to contradict 
or disobey them, as, for example, when Vasishtha reiterates and 
supports Bharata's request to him to return to Ayodhya, he makes 
them feel that he does not abate one jot from the reverence that 
he owes them. We can write about his uniform kindness and 
ready accessibility even to the lowest of the low. But, all this is 
unnecessary. We hope, we have given the reader sufficient 
material to form an adequate mental picture of the Rama of 
Kamban, and we hope that this will create in him a desire to 
study the poet in his own words and enjoy the entire picture with 
all its details filled in. 

And where, is Rama's like or superior in epic story ? Can 
we name Nestor along with him ? Can we name Ulysses ? Can 
we name the pious ^neas ? Can we name Yudhishthira or 
Bhishma ? Can we name along with him even the Messiah of 
the Paradise Lost or Him of the Paradise Regained ? We think 
every one of these falls short by many an inch of the stature of 

i He whose one dynamic motive is truth. 

2 He who never gives up a worthy resolution. 

3 VI iv 120. 

RAMA 69 

pur Rama. Rama has the valour of Achilles, but is free from 
the littleness that would, for instance, conjure Jove to hurl the 
Greeks, his own countrymen, 

headlong to their fleet and main, 

To heap the shores with copious death and bring 
The Greeks to know the curse of such a King. 

Rama has the dignity of Nestor and the cleverness and the 
skill of Ulysses, but Nestor lacks the fire and delicate moral 
sensibility, and Ulysses the straightness, of the Prachanda 
Kodhanda Rama 1 who will go through fire rather than go back 
upon his pledged word. The Messiah is not worked up by Milton 
with the same power with which he has worked up his Satan and 
Beelzebub or Adam and Eve, and his figure does not leave a 
lasting impression upon the readers' imagination as does the 
figure of Satan ; and there is a shadowiness about him which 
takes away a great deal from him, though as literary creations 
they impress the reader with no less force than the character 
of our hero. 

In fact, Valmiki searched long for an ideal hero whose 
achievements he could work out into a Mahakavya, and Narada 
suggested to him the name of Shri Rama as the proper subject 
for his contemplated poem. And, grandly has Valmiki exalted 
and idealised the character of the great hero. But if Valmiki's 
Rama is grand, Kamban's Rama is, as we have remarked before, 
grander still. Kamban would leave no littleness, no crookedness, 
no commonness, in his hero. 

If Kamban's Rama admits Vibhishana into his friendship, he 
would not immediately question him about the defences of Lanka, 
so as to give the impression, as Valmiki's hero does, that he took 
him primarily for his usefulness as Lanka's traitor. When Viradha 
lifts Sita up in order to carry her off, Valmiki's Rama laments 
in these words : 

' O my Lakshmana, the intentions of Kaikeyi towards us, 
the object with which she claimed and obtained her prayer, 
the desire nearest to her heart — have all been very quickly 
fulfilled today. For, far-sighted woman that she is, she was 
not satisfied merely with obtaining the crown for her son ; 
she took care to banish me to the forest also— me who have 
the good of all beings at heart. Behold, today my 
step-mother's heart must be verily delighted ! ' 

i Rama of the terrific bow called Kodhanda. 


Again, when Sita has been actually carried off by Ravana^ 
Valmiki makes his Rama say to Lakshmana : 

' When I am dead for the sake of Sita, and when thou 

art gone, would not Kaikeyi's heart be full of joy ? And 

would not holy Kausalya, the mother bereaved of her son, 

have to wait on Kaikeyi who has her son living and who has 

everything that she desires in the world ? ' 

But the thoughts of Kamban's Rama, as we have remarked 

in another connection, never descend to this weak accusation of 

Kaikeyi. They are always pitched in a higher key. Never from 

his lips fall any words that condemn Kaikeyi who has done him 

so much injury — not even when the worst misfortunes befall him. 

Valmiki again, makes his Sita, while at Ashokavana, to 

apostrophise Rama and say, 

' Perhaps, thy father's hard commands fulfilled, 
Thou art returned to fair Ayodh ; and there 
Perhaps, thy vows performed, thou fearless sport'st 
With large-eyed virgins young.' 
But Kamban's Rama is too grand to be capable of being 
suspected thus by his beloved Sita. For the thoughts of 
Kamban's Sita, while she is in this mood, would only take this. 
line : 

' Perchance his brothers and mothers, have they come 
Again, and called him back to lovely Oudh ? 
But he would ne'er return, the while the days 
To Kaikeyi vowed unfulfilled yet remain. 
Alas, has any ill befallen him ? ' : 

We may go on multiplying instances without end to show to 
how great a height Kamban has raised the character of Rama, 
But we hope that even the most partial admirer of Valmiki will 
be satisfied with the extracts that we have given from our poet, 
and will accept our contention that Kamban's Rama is cast in a 
grander mould than Valmiki's hero. And if he is superior to- 
Valmiki's hero, is he not Mahavira indeed, — the grandest among 
the heroes of epic poetry ? 

» V iii 17. 



In this chapter, -we take up the study of the character and 
exploits of Lakshmana, the brother and inseparable companion 
of Rama. Lakshmana has identified himself so much with Rama 
that the devotees of Rama in the Tamil-land delight to call him 
by the name of ' younger lord '. His valour is equal to that of 
Rama himself, for he is able to bring down ' the first ' of those 
that wield the bended bow, namely, Indrajit, the son of Ravana, 
But the mainspring of his character is not valour or heroism, 
though he possesses these qualities to a wonderful degree, but 
love — an all-absorbing, self-forgetting love — for his brother, the 
chief of his race and the first of men. 

We do not see much of him in the First Book. He, of course, 
accompanies Rama to the forest when Vishvamitra takes Rama 
to guard his sacrificial grounds against Tadaka and her host. He 
is perfected in his knowledge of archery by the old Rishi who 
teaches him along with Rama the method of invoking magical 
weapons. He marries a daughter of Janaka at Mithila. But, 
generally speaking, he is but the shadow of Rama all through the 
Balakanda of the Ramayana. 

His character, however, unfolds itself rapidly in the Second 
Book of the poem. He accompanies Rama to the Durbar Hall 
when their father sends for the latter, and is present when 
Dasharatha announces to Rama his intention to crown him as 
sovereign of Ayodhya. But when the next morning Kaikeyi sends 
suddenly for Rama, Lakshmana does not go with him, and so is 
ignorant of the new developments that are taking place. The 
news, however, is not long in reaching him, and when he hears 
that his beloved brother is being deprived of his rightful crown 
by the machinations of his step-mother, his whole frame throbs 
with uncontrollable anger, and he starts for fight like a cobra 
provoked. Says the poet, 

When Lakshman learnt that Kaikai had the pledge 
Revoked of Dasharatha, and forced exile 
On Ram, he rose indignant like the fire 
That doth on Dissolution's Day all things 


Consume. His eyes shot flame ; his front shone bright 

Like noon-day sun, and scorched his very hair ; 

And sweat suffused his limbs ; his breath came in 

And went tempestuous ; and terrific 

He looked like Adi Shesh 1 himself, in all 

His fury roused ! 2 

When he grasped the full significance of the news that reached 
his ears, he laughed aloud saying, 

' Doth she desire to give to a dog the meat prepared for 

a lion-cub ? Wise indeed is Kaikeyi ! ' 3 

He put on his armour, girded on his sword, and took his 
bow and quiver. He wore on his ankle the anklet worn by the 
invincible hero. And as he strode along the streets of Ayodhya, 
the fell sound of his anklet-bells rose and fell shaming the roar of 
the sea ; and none dared to encounter him. And he challenged 
all men saying, 

' I stand prepared to lighten Mother Earth, 
Extinguish all the sons of guilt, and heap 
Their lifeless corpses up to heaven, and crown 
My Ram as Ayodh's king. Whoe'er desires 
To offer battle, let them come ! Be't gods 
Or Nagas, Vidyadhars, men or ev'n the Three 
Supreme who challenge me, I let no woman 
Usurp the throne in this my sacred land.' 4 

As he was thus striding the earth like the very Meru 
mountain endowed with life, frowning on all around even as the 
burning midday sun, Rama heard the twang of his bow-strings 
the while he was consoling Sumitra in her grief at the sudden 
news of his parting. And, 

His golden anklet glittering in the sun, 
Breathing ambrosial words, he hurried on 
To where his Lakshman stood : so flies the cloud 
To quench the wind-fanned flaming forest fire 
Fume- crowned. 5 

1 The thousand-hooded divine cobra on the Sea of Milk, on whose 
lap sleeps the Supreme Narayana. Lakshmana is the avatar of Adi Shesh. 

2 II iv 116. 3 n iv 117. 
* II iv 121, 122. » n iv 125. 


Rama saw him armed from head to foot and frowning against 
all things living, and asked him, 

' Why art thou armed for battle, my Child ? 
Surely thou art not going to fight the gods ! n 

Lakshmana replied, 

' I have vowed to crown thee king, and that in the very 

face of her who has murdered truth and robbed thee of thy 

rightful inheritance. And even if it is the gods that stand 

in the way, they all shall burn in the fire of my wrath. 

When I hold the bow in this hand, even the gods will not 

dare to oppose me. If any oppose, they will be but targets 

for my fiery darts. And I will give thee the crown of all 

the earth ! Deign to receive it at my hands.' 

Rama tried to cool him by appealing to his sense of filial 

obedience and generally to his sense of righteousness. But 

Lakshmana did not grow calm. Burning like Rudra 2 himself 

in his anger, he burst out saying, 

' I know not father, mother, or lord : thyself alone art 
master, mother, father, all to me. Thou hast learnt to give 
away what is thine : now see me give back thy own to 
thee ! ' 3 

But when Rama asked him, 

' How wilt thou win the crown for me, my child ? 
Wouldst thou fight Bhar't the just, over-faultless, 
Or wouldst thou kill th' adored of virtuous men 
Our father ? Or wouldst thou fight our mother ? ' * 

Lakshmana could only say, 

' Let enemies insult thee in their pride, 
Meekly I'll bear it all. Am not I born 
To bear the burden of these idle arms 
And pompous bow, impotent to avenge 
Our injuries ? ' s 

And he became, says the poet, ' even like the ocean that keeps 
from overflowing its bounds in obedience to the will of that 
same Rama.' 

i II iv 126. 2 God of Destruction. 3 n iv 137. 

4 II Iv 139. 5 ii iv 140. 


In the few words, ' I know not father, mother or lord : thyself 
alone art master, mother, father, all to me, r is contained the 
key to the whole character of Lakshmana. He cannot bear to 
see his Rama suffer in any way. So, when Kaikeyi's maids 
bring to Rama coarse hermit's weeds to wear, Lakshmana says- 
to them in bitterness, 

' Behold, there stands he who is born to wear 
All that she sends in the hardness of her heart ; 
And me behold, whose fate it is to look 
Impotently on all these rending sights ! ' 1 

When Rama has put on those coarse garments, Lakshmana 
does not say anything but himself also silently and as a matter 
of course casts off his own royal robes and puts on the forest- 
dweller's garb. But when Rama expostulates with him and 
prays to him to remain in Ayodhya, his love receives a shock, 
and like a wounded lover he asks Rama, ' In what have I offended 
thee ? ' For he cannot so much as imagine how Rama could 
think of parting from him even when going to the forest. And 
then he continues thus : 

' Fishes live not if waters fail ; and all 

That lives must die if Mother Earth give way. 

Now tell me, brother, on what do Sita's life 

And mine depend 

Thy words that bid me stay,. 

While thou do'st Ayodh leave behind — these words 
Are crueller far than those that bade me calm 
My wrath against thy enemies. Thy wealth, 
And all that is thine own thou leavest here : 
Wouldst thou abandon also us, my brother ? ' 2 

Such was Lakshmana's love for his Rama. It was now 
Rama's turn to yield. He saw Lakshmana's face and his own 
eyes filled with tears. How could he desist from tears at such 
words, and how could he desist from taking him with himself 
in his exile ? 

And how Lakshmana serves his brother in the forest ! His- 
one study is to look after every little comfort of Rama and" 

i H iv 149. a n iv 1ST, 159. 


guard him against all enemies known and unknown. It is he 
that builds the leaf-cottages wherever they move in the 
forest-country. It is he that gathers their food. It is he that 
mounts guard about the cottage while his Rama and Sita sleep 
undisturbed in the bed that he has lovingly made for them. 

Guha sobs aloud when he sees the devotion of Lakshmana 
in watching, bow in hand, over Rama and Sita the livelong night. 
And Rama himself when he asks him to crown Vibhishana as 
king of Lanka, addresses him as ' my child of the sleep- 
forswearing eye,' and shows how the thought of all that his 
brother suffers for him is never absent from his heart. 

Now this intense love for Rama makes Lakshmana regard 
as his own mortal enemies all who have injured Rama. He 
never stops to inquire whether they have actually injured him. 
It is sufficient if he believes that they have injured, or even 
suspects them to have injured Rama. This passion of hatred 
clouds his mind in all that concerns Kaikeyi and those connected 
with her. So, when Sumantra after carrying in his chariot Rama, 
Lakshmana and Sita to the forest takes leave of them, and asks 
them if they have any word to send home, Lakshmana for his 
part sends this message. He says, 

" Have I a message too for him, as if 

He were my king, who promised first the crown 

To Ram, and then in the sacred name of truth 

Resigned the throne in favour of his queen ? 

And then to Bharat proud this shalt thou say, 

' Behold, Saumitri 1 liveth yet, although 

His hands unworthy failed to fight for Ram.' 

And this thereunto add as if for me, 

' Lakshman forsweareth kinship with the son 

Of Kaikeyi.' " 2 

So also, when Bharata comes to the forest accompanied by 
the whole population of Ayodhya in order to request Rama to 
return and assume the crown, Lakshmana, as soon as he espies 
the moving host, jumps to the conclusion that he comes with a 
hostile design against Rama. So he rushes into the cottage, puts 
on his armour, makes ready his bow and quiver, and thus 
unburdens himself to Rama : 

1 Matronymic from Sumitra, Lakshmana being Sumitra's son. 
a II v 43, 45. 


' Behold yon Bharata, now an out-caste to this world as 
he has already become an out-caste to the next ! Thou wilt 
see the prowess of thy brother's single right arm against 
him and all his hosts. Thou wilt see me destroy the troops 
of Bharata and make Svarga bend under the weight of 
quick-rushing immigrants, the while Earth is lightened of 
her load. Thou wilt see rivers of blood floating with thfe 
carcasses of his elephants and horses, and with his broken 
chariots flowing to the sea and making the seven oceans 
one . . . Thou wilt see my feathered arrows pierce the hearts 
of those twin-brothers 1 ; and fly through the ethereal void 
carrying their bleeding flesh in their beaks. By the command 
of the tyrant prince, who was thereto induced by his 
favourite queen, Bharata is now the Sovereign of the Earth : 
thou wilt presently see him ruling in Hell at my command ! 
And thou wilt soon see the guilty Kaikeyi roll oh the ground 
in inconsolable grief, who delighted not long ago in the 
tears of thy mother when thou leftest for the jungle- 
country ! ' 2 

Such is the violence of his wrath that Rama listens quietly 
to all his out-pourings till they exhaust themselves, and then 
alone attempts to reason with him. And even then see how he 
begins his reply with delicate flattery : 

' Do not I know, my Lakshmana, that there lives none 

that can stay thy hand if thou desirest to confound even the 

fourteen worlds ? But, my brother, hast thou thought that 

in the long list of our glorious ancestors, there has never 

been born one who ever swerved from the path of virtue ? ' 3 

But, whenever it is not a question of Kaikeyi or Bharata, 

Lakshmana's mind sees clear as crystal. He is in all other 

matters the wisest of the wise and the wariest of the wary. His 

devotion to Rama and Sita gives him a power of insight which 

is denied to Rama himself. So if Sita and Rama are deceived 

by the beauty of the golden deer, Lakshmana suspects treachery 

even at the very first sight of him. As Sita's and Rama's 

attraction for him grows greater, Lakshmana's suspicion grows 

only deeper. When Rama sets out to go and capture the deer 

for Sita Lakshmana warns him saying, 

i Bharata and Shatrughna. Shatrughna, though the twin brother of 
Lakshmana, is the inseparable companion of Bharata as Lakshmana is ox 

2 II xii 30, 34, 36, 38-40. 

3 II xii 42, 43. 


' If we pursue the deer, of this be sure, 
We'll find ourselves encompassed by the guile 
Of Rakshasas.' 1 

But Rama will not listen to him. He replies, 

'If this prove a Rakshasa disguised 

He dies, and thereby I fulfil my vow ; 
If but a deer I capture him for Sita.' 2 

Lakshmana again makes an attempt to dissuade him. He 

' But . . . who is behind the veil 

We know not ; this mysterious golden deer, 

What he may be, we hardly care to think. 

Forego therefore the hunt, my brother. For wise 

Are they that have condemned the pleasures of sport.' 3 

Rama laughs at his fears, but his suspicions are not allayed. 
He proposes that at least Rama should stay at home and that 
he himself would go and hunt the deer and bring him to Sita. 
But, as the reader knows, his wisdom and forethought are useless 
as Cassandra's prophesies. Sita goes into a pet, and Rama, to 
satisfy her, asks Lakshmana to look after Sita and starts off 
himself in pursuit of the magic deer and, finding the dead body 
of the Rakshasa in place of the deer, he exclaims to himself — but 
too late to be of any use — ' Ah wise, verily wise is my dear 
child ! ' 

Similarly again, when Maricha, struck down by Rama's dart, 
(who was the Rakshasa that had come assuming the form of the 
deer) groans piteously as he falls, but assuming the voice of 
Rama, Lakshmana is not at all deceived. He shows no anxiety 
for the safety of Rama. But Sita fears the very worst. She 
frowns at Lakshmana's coolness, and, in spite of his assurances, 
darts cruel words at him which force him to leave her and go 
on the trace of Rama's footsteps, the while his mind is tortured 
with the worst forebodings for Sita's safety. 

When Lakshmana and Rama return together to the cottage 
and see not Sita, it is Lakshmana that calms Rama and suggests 

1 III vii 232. 2 in vii 233. 3 m vii 234. 


that they should pursue the trace left on the ground by Ravana's 
car. On the way they find a flag fallen on the ground, and 
signs of fierce combat. When they see a number of golden 
crowns fallen pell-mell here and there, it is Lakshmana that 
suggests that Sita might have been carried off by Ravana, and 
that Jatayus might be engaging with him on the way. They 
hurry on and hear the story of Ravana's flight from the dying 
Vulture-King. When Jatayus dies, Rama's heart is torn with 
grief and he weakens for a moment. But Lakshmana brings him 
to himself with his heartening words. 

After this we see Lakshmana again at his best in the Book 
of Battles. We get only little glimpses of him before the war 
commences. For instance, we see him maim Shurpanakha and 
kill Ajomuki, the Rakshasi, who like Shurpanakha sought him 
with lustful intent. We see him charge Sugriva with 
unbrotherly conduct, and receive a sharp reprimand at the hands 
of Rama. We see him carry Rama's angry message to Sugriva, 
who, in his drunken revels, forgets to come to Rama with his 
forces at the appointed time. We see him take the word out 
of Rama's mouth when Vali puts to Rama his last question, and 
give to Vali the plausible answer which Rama would not and 
could not give. 1 In all these places, however, he is only a side- 
actor. It is only in the Yuddha Kanda that he has the stage 
wholly to himself for long periods at a stretch. 

Lakshmana distinguishes himself greatly in the very first 
fight with Ravana. The reader will remember Ravana's 
unstinted praise of his archery and skill in war. 2 But he falls 
wounded by an arrow of Ravana. Ravana attempts to take him 
prisoner but is unable to lift him from the ground. The hands 
that could lift Mount Kailasa itself, with Shiva upon it, have 
not the power to lift Lakshmana from the ground — such is the 
divine power confined in that mortal body ! But Hanuman 
rushes in and snatches the body of Lakshmana and carries him 
with ease to the camp. 

On the second day when Kumbhakarna carries everything 
before him and bears without flinching the shock of the huge 
rock that Hanuman threw against him with all his force, the 
latter says to himself, 

' Scatheless he stands the shock ! the hugest rocks 
Seem powerless to bend or break his adamant frame ! 

l See Chapter XI. 2 See Ch. XIII ; also p. 20. 


Saumitri's l fiery darts alone, perchance, 
(If mortal weapons can avail), can have 
The strength to pierce his giant shape. ' 2 

Lakshmana, on his part, seeing the havoc that Kumbhakarna 
is working in the Vanara army hastens towards that part of the 
field and restores the fight shooting down the Rakshasas by the 
hundred and by the ' thousand. Seeing his skill and aim and 
force, Kumbhakarna exclaims, 

' The God who burned the cities three alone 
Can rival Lakshman in the bowman's art ! ' 3 

and directs his chariot against him. When Hanuman sees him 
come against Lakshmana, he leaps with joy saying, 

' These eyes will witness now unheard of deeds 
Of valour,' * 

and runs to Lakshmana and asks him to seat himeslf on his 
broad shoulders. 

When Lakshmana had seated himself on the shoulders of 
Hanuman, Kumbhakarna challenged him, saying, 

' Behold, thou art the brother of Ram, and I 
Am brother to mighty Ravana : and lo, 
The Gods assemble round to witness our deeds 
Of war. 'Fore them I swear that I shall cleave 
In twain the sacrilegious hands that dared 
To hold my sister by the hair and her 
Deformed ! ' 5 

Lakshmana replied, 

' Not learned in the braggart's art, we can 
But answer thee with th' arrows point.' s 

The fight now began in right earnest. The Rakshasa shot 
numberless darts from his mighty bow, and Lakshmana broke 

i Lakshmana's. * VI xv 230. 

2 VI xv 203. 5 VI xv 234, 235. 

3 VI xv 228. 6 VI xv 236. 


their fury with his own arrows before they could reach him. 
Again Kumbhakarna sent hundreds of arrows against him. 
Lakshmana's swifter arrows scattered them away. Now 
Kumbhakarna hit Hanuman with an arrow and Lakshmana also 
with a couple of fierce darts. But Lakshmana, in spite of his 
deep wounds, bent his bow almost to a circle and shot down and 
destroyed Kumbhakarna's war-chariot and broke the bow in 
his hand. Just at that moment the reinforcements sent by 
Havana arrived and engaged Lakshmana leaving Kumbhakarna 
time to arm himself. Kumbhakarna, however, after this sought 
other enemies, and Lakshmana's part in this day's fight ended 
with the struggle with these newly arrived Rakshasas. 

Kumbhakarna fell by the hand of Rama in this second day's 
battle. When news reached Lanka that Kumbhakarna had fallen, 
Atikaya, one of the three sons of Ravana, swore that he would 
kill Lakshmana and make Rama grieve for his brother even as 
Ravana was grieving for his own brother, and marched to the 
battle with great eclat. Vibhishana knew his strength and 
hinted to Rama that Lakshmana might probably be unequal to 
the fight. But Rama smiled at his doubts and praised 
Lakshmana's valour in these words : 

' Ten thousand thousand Ravanas may oppose 

And all the Gods, and who in other worlds 

Are counted mighty ; may be Three Supreme 

May try, and join their strength with theirs ; e'en then- 

They can't outmatch our Lakshman's warlike skill ! 

Can heaven stand his deadly aim, or earth ? 

Breathes there an archer who can wield the bow 

As he ? What's Vishnu, Indra, Shiva, or I 

Myself, before him, if he frown ? ' 1 

This is the only occasion where Rama seriously praises 
Lakshmana in his presence. 

Lakshmana did obeisance to Rama and started for the fight. 
The battle raged furiously. The Vanara army was pressed back 
by the onrush of the Rakshasas ; Lakshmana encouraged them 
by his voice and by the twang of his mighty bow which was 

The favourite home of Yama, the God of Death. 

1 VI xvii 78, 79. 


Elephants and cavalry, chariots and Rakshasa infantry were 
destroyed by the hundred thousand. Daruka and Kala, Kulisa 
and Kala Shanka, Malin and Marut attacked him with tridents 
and lances and maces. But Lakshmana's arrows broke or turned 
away the missiles and killed the Rakshasas in the end. In the 
evolutions of the battle, Lakshmana came face to face with the 
main wing of the army commanded by Atikaya, and did great 
havoc. Seeing the force of his arrows, mountains trembled and 
the thunder-laden clouds feared for their safety. Hanuman joined, 
and in the sight of Atikaya killed Devantaka with a blow of 
his iron fist, and challenged and killed Trishiras who came to 
support Atikaya. Atikaya, however, did not waste time in 
attacking Hanuman but went for Lakshmana straight, saying to 

' It is not the part of wisdom to take up another enterprise 

when my first vow is unaccomplished.' x 

Lakshmana seated himself now on the shoulders of Angada 
who followed every movement of Atikaya's chariot to the 
admiration of the Vanara army. After shooting down Atikaya's 
guards, Lakshmana addressed the Rakshasa in this wise : 

' Desirest thou t' engage with me when all 
Thy men have met their fate or dost intend 
To try thy strength with me before ? The choice 
Is thine ! ' 2 

Atikaya replied, 

' Others shall watch our combat : I am seeking 
Alone to meet thee, though the gods may stand 
By thee and offer battle. Thou may'st call 
Thy brother to give thee aid or Shiv himself 
And all the gods of heaven or other worlds : 
And yet this day shall be thy last ! ' 3 

So saying he blew his sonorous conch. But Lakshmana only 
smiled and said, 

' Of those that thou didst name, not one will come 
T' engage with thee. If fall I must, I fall 
Alone. Tell thee this. If me thou beat. 
Thou wilt have conquered also them ! ' * 

1 VI xii 180. 2 VI xvii 188. 

3 VI xvii 189, 190. * VI xvii 191. 



and then twanged his bow and sent an arrow laden with 
lightning against the chest of Atikaya. Atikaya sped first one 
arrow to meet it in the air and turn it off from him, and then 
Sent sixteen other arrows, fierce like cobras, against Lakshmana. 
Lakshmana cut them off with darts of equal force, pierced 
Atikaya's armour, and while he fainted with loss of blood 
chivalrously turned to another side and sowed the Rakshasa part 
of the battle-field with falling corpses. 

When Atikaya recovered and saw the havoc played by 
Lakshmana's arrows, his pride was up and he sent a veritable 
iron-hail against him. 

His arrows covered the sky and all the bounds 
Of heaven ; the earth, it bristled with his darts. 
The Vanar heroes screaming rolled, tossed by 
That iron-tempest .... Rocks to pieces flew 
Struck with the darts of mighty Atikay. 1 

The sky became overcast. The sun was hidden behind a 
cloud of arrows. The earth trembled under the shock of missiles 
struggling against each other in mid-air. 

The Devas, each his neighbour trembling asked, 

' Is all the Vanar host to end this day ? 

Has Lakshman skill and strength to master him ? 

'Sit from the God of Death that Atikaya 

His wondrous archery did learn ? ' 2 

Atikaya wounded Angada and Lakshmana as well. But 
Lakshmana's blood was up ; with one shower of lightning-laden 
arrows he cut off the heads of the Rakshasa's horses and broke 
the bow, and when he leaped up another chariot, sent against 
him the Agni Astra. 3 But Atikaya sent the Surya-Astra, the 
weapon inspired by the Sun-God, to tame it down. While these 
two weapons were struggling against each other, Lakshmana 
pierced the Rakshasa's body with his sharpest arrows, but still 
he fought on unmindful of his wounds. Fiercely, and more 
fiercely, came his arrows, and Lakshmana could barely parry 
them. Just then Vayu, the Wind-God, whispered to Lakshmana 
that his adversary could not die by any other weapon except the 

1 VI xvii 197, 198. 2 VI xvii 198. 

3 Weapon inspired by the Fire-God. 


Brahmastra, the weapon of the greatest power. Lakshmana, 
-therefore, sped the Brahmastra and lo, the arrow cut Atikaya's 
bead clean from the trunk and carried it off. 

This battle with Atikaya, great as it is, is only a rehearsal 
for Lakshmana's greater battles with Indrajit. For Kamban, 
like Valmiki, reserves the great Indrajit as the fit target for 
Lakshmana's arrow. Already in the Sundarakanda he had made 
Hanuman exclaim to' himself when he saw Indrajit sleeping in 
his palace in Lanka, 

' Is he the Rakshasas' king or Kartikey, 
The son of Mahadeva, God of gods ? 
He looks like a lion sleeping in his den : 
A terrific fight I see in the days to come 
When Lakshmana and Ram encounter him.' 1 

And at the close of the combat with Atikaya, the poet finely 
suggests the coming battles with Indrajit in the following lines : 

When wise Vibhishan saw this feat of arms 
And heard the shout of gods above, he leaped 
With joy, and said, ' If this is his matchless skill 
In war, the fate of Indrajit himself 
Is sealed. 2 

Great was the consternation in Lanka when the news spread 
there that Atikaya was dead. When Danamala, the mother of 
Atikaya, heard that her son had fallen on the field, she came 
beating her breasts and fell sobbing at the feet of Havana who 
was himself aghast at the death of his son ; and she vented 
her grief at the loss of her son and chid Ravana in the following 
"words : 

'Where is my child, the apple of mine eye ? 
Show me my son, Oh bring him back to me ! 
The Gods themselves did envy me as mother 
Of him whom even Indra could not beat 
In war : ah me, I see him delivered up 
As prey to th' arrow of a man to-day. 
Aksha is dead, and dead is Atikay, 
And fallen are the warriors great in might. 

1 V ii 141. 2 VI xvii 208. 


Among thy sons Mandodari's son alone 
Is yet alive : now once again attempt 
Thy world conquests ! . . . Silent thou sitst ! . . where* 

Is gone thy might ? Hast lost the strength to tame 
Thy powerful foes ? Hear'st thou my words ? Or hearing 
Dost thou not understand ? Or wilt not hear ? 
Wilt thou not weep at least for thy warriors dead ? 
Oh cruel ! Black ruin has thou brought on us. 
Cursed, thrice cursed is thy guilty lust : 
And yet is this the last of the ills that are 
To blight our race for Sita's sake. n 

The lamentations of Danamala and her companions reached 
the ears of Indrajit and, when he heard that it was Atikaya that 
had fallen on the field, he swore that if he should not fell to 
earth, that same day, Lakshmana who took his life, he would 
give himself in slavery to Indra whom he had twice defeated 
in battle. He then put on his armour, selected his troops, and 
marched to the war in a chariot drawn by a thousand lions, 
preceded by goblins and ghouls who heralded his approach 

' Behold the hero that brought Indra down as a prisoner 

tied to his chariot wheels ! ' 2 

Lakshmana had not left the field, thinking that, after the 
fall of Atikaya, either Ravana himself or at least Indrajit would 
head the next attack. And he was ambitious to try his mettle 
against one of them. So when the grand warrior — ' who had 
only seen the back of the gods flying for life and never their 
faces ' — came near, Lakshmana asked Vibhishana who he was. 
Vibhishana replied, 

' He is the hero who has crushed in war 
The king of Devas : hot will be the fight 
This day,' 3 

and advised him to take Hanuman, Sugriva, and other Vanara 
heroes to support him in battle. 

As Lakshmana accepted his advice, Angada came back to 
him, and Hanuman also hastened to him. On seeing him pitted 
against the greatest warrior among the Rakshasas, Sugriva 

l VI xvii 269-272. 2 VI xviu 21. 3 VI xviii 28. 


brought the pick of his troops in front and the attack commenced. 

The encounter of the two armies was like two seas dashing 
at each other in full flood-tide. The Devas who had come down 
to earth to witness the greatest fight that mortal or immortal 
eyes could look upon, shut their ears to the deafening sounds 
of the trumpets and conches and the challenging shouts of the 
■opposing heroes. The very field of battle cracked by the terrific 
force of the arrows and lances, trees and rocks hurled against 
each other by the contending armies, and the shattering encounter 
of Vanara and Rakshasa heroes. Blood flowed in torrents, 
■carrying the floating corpses of dead heroes on either side. 
Death, parading in the form of Vanara heroes, broke the heads 
of the Rakshasas with trunks of uprooted trees, drank their life, 
or smashed their arms and feet. Even after the lances had pierced 
their vitals, the Vanaras sprang upon their enemies and died only 
after mauling them or crunching them in their iron jaws. In 
every part of the enemy's army you could find the Vanaras, — on 
the heads of elephants and of horses, on the chariots of the 
Rakshasa leaders, on the top-ends of their mighty bows, and 
sometimes on the heads of the Rakshasas themselves. The bodies 
of the Vanara heroes broken by the maces of the Rakshasas floated 
down to the sea over the rivers of blood flowing from the field. 
But even then the grip of their hands did not relax— they still 
held the rocks which they had uprooted in order to hurl against 
their foes ! In the shambles made by the mighty paw of 
Hanuman, you could not distinguish either horse or elephant, 
banner or wheel, lance or bow or mace or even chariot. 

The Rakshasa's assault now began in right earnest, and the 
common Vanaras fled from the field. But the leaders stood their 
ground and dammed the Rakshasa flood. The Rakshasas cared 
not who died or who lived, and dashed forward pounding the 
Vanaras with their maces and clubs. And yet, though suffering 
terribly, the Vanara leaders broke the force of the onset. 
Wherever Nila rushed, the eight-handed God of Death, Yama, 
armed with trident and axe and noose had his hands full 
capturing the souls of the falling Rakshasas. What is this sight ? 
Is it a tempest ? Or is it the roaring deep ? Or is it all-consuming 
fire ? No ! It is the Vanara Kumuda who knocks down the 
Rakshasas : and Yama himself trembles at his work. Rishabha 
and Panaja, Jambhavan and Kesari, Mainda and his brother carry 
havoc in the enemy's ranks. 

Seeking the Rakshasa attack broken by the leaders, the 
"Vanaras that had fled away now formed up and were led to the 


attack by the chiefs. The Rakshasa army was pushed back. 
Indrajit saw this, and full of anger and pride he now came to the 
front causing to quake the very earth and the ocean by the twartg- 
ing of his mighty bow. The arrows discharged from his bow clove 
through the air like deadly cobras, and broke to pieces the rocks 
and tree trunks flung by the Vanaras, and pierced the large bodies 
of the Vanaras themselves. Hundreds of thousands of Vanaras had 
fallen before a muhurta x passed. But they died not in vain. Even 
at the moment of dying they would pull rocks by their roots and 
whirl them into the enemy's ranks. Nothing was visible owing 
to the tempest of arrows blowing from Indrajit's bow. No sound 
was heard except the thunder of its twang. The Vanaras turned 
and fled, unable to bear this whirlwind of missiles, and the Gods 
trembled when they saw their champions flying from field. The 
Rakshasa flood now recommenced to flow over. To stop it, Sugriva 
and Hanuman came forward whirling trees and fragments of 
rocks. When he caught sight of Hanuman, Indrajit remembered 
his exploits in Lanka when he had been there to look for, Sita,. 
and challenged him in the following words : 

' Fly not ignoble, stand thy ground : I've come 
To the front seeking thee. Thou canst not wield 
The bow, but endless boast of great prowess 
Thou makest. Thinkest thou with stones and twigs- 
To master me ? ' 2 

Hanuman's reply was not less proud : 

' Here also there be some, O feeble, who 

Can wield the banded bow, and thou wilt taste 

By proof their strength to-morrow if thou 'scape 

From here with life to-day. Face me if canst ; 

Think not thou hast an Indra here who fled 

In olden times before thy feeble arms ! ' 3 

and he defied him still further in these words : 

' Wouldst fight with me ? 
Or wouldst thou measure thy strength with Lakshmana $ 
Or choosest thou to face the matchless chief 
Who has vowed to bring thy father's ten heads down ? 
The choice is thine to make.' 4 

1 an hour and a halt 2 VI xviii 73. 

S VI xviii 74. * VI xviii 75. 

L A K S H-M ANA $tf 

As soon as the Rakshasa heard the name of Lakshmana he 
remembered his oath and addressed Hanuman as follows : 

' Where is that Lakshmana doomed who took the life 

Of my lion brother and reserves his own 

As target to my tearing darts ? I've come 

To cool my wrath in his blood ! And when I shoot 

The fiery arrows that the world can burn, 

Can he and thou and all your vaunted force 

Suffice to feed their hungry maw ? I'll send 

My troops and generals all away ; alone 

I'll stand, with none to back me but my bow 

Invincible. And you may come with all 

Your strength, and all that mortal men or gods 

Can bring of force : the sun goeth not down 

This day or ere your severed heads had rolled 

Upon the plain ! ' x 

So saying, Indrajit shot hundreds of arrows into Hanuman's 
mighty frame. But, though bleeding all over his body, Hanuman 
aimed a huge stone at him saying, 

' In their thousands though they come, can elephants tame 

The lordly lion boiling o'er with rage ? 

If thou the patience lack to 'wait Saumitri, 

And battle want, I give thee this, now guard 

Thyself, if canst ! ' 2 

and hurled a huge rock at him. 

But the rock broke into a thousand fragments when it struck 
the iron body of the Rakshasa, and, as if nothing had happened, 
he sent his shattering arrows against Hanuman. Hanuman was 
overwhelmed, but, just at that time, Nila came to his side and 
sustained the conflict. But neither he nor Angada who came to 
his support could long withstand that iron-hail. 

Lakshmana saw this from a distance and hastened to the spot. 
The Rakshasa leaders who were furious against him for having 
killed Atikaya concentrated against him from all sides and aimed 
their deadly darts at him. But the cunning hand of Lakshmana 
was able to break their force and bring the Rakshasas also to 
the ground. Seeing the rapidity and force with which the arrows 
flew from his mighty bow, the gods exclaimed, 

l VI xviii 76, 77. 2 VI xviii 79. 


' Is it from Lakshmana's archery that the rain-cloud 
Learnt to rain in torrents ? ' * 

The Rakshasa flood abated completely, but Indrajit stood 
his ground like a rock rising sheer from the bosom of a dried-up 
sea. And piloting his chariot that dashed on with the quickness 
of his own thought he stood before Lakshmana. Hanuman, 
meanwhile, had recovered from his shock and rushed to the front 
and desired Lakshmana to seat himself upon his shoulders so as 
not to give the advantage to the charioted Rakshasa. The giant 
fight began. 

Now thundered the twanging bows. At that terrific sound 
the very boundaries of the world were shot away from their 
places. The mountains split. The concave of heaven cracked. 
The whole universe became embroiled in a whirlwind of dust. 
The fierce arrows struggled in the air mauling each other to 
pieces. The Gods in svarga trembled for their lives, and crouched 
in their hiding places for safety. The universal sphere rocked 
to and fro like a frail boat in a tempest. Hanuman paralleled 
every evolution of the enemy's lion-drawn chariot. The arrows 
flew so thick that even the Gods could not see whether the 
combatants were alive or dead or wounded. The bounds of the 
earth cracked to pieces at the deepening tumult. The spectators, 
astonished at the mastery and skill displayed by the combatants 
and their super-human deeds, exclaimed to each other, 

' Is not the art of archery infinite 

And various ? And where is the limit set 

To strength of muscle ? Wondrous is their skill 

And prowess ! Who has ever fought like these ? 

Never was seen such fight before, and ne'er 

Will be ! ' 2 

There was no end to the flight of arrows. The two heroes 
parried each other's arrows and found time to aim newer ones 
against each other. Lakshmana's and Hanuman's bodies were 
flowing over with blood. The Rakshasa's chariots were broken 
one after another, and he got upon new chariots only to descend 
from their broken ruins the very next minute. Lakshmana's 
arrows killed the lions and horses that drew his chariot and tore 

1 VI xviii 95. 2 VI xviii 105, 106. 


open his urmour. His body itself became a running sore. But 
«ven in the midst of his terrible suffering he admired Lakshmana's 
.archery and exclaimed, 

' Superb is this man's skill with the bow. Let fools say 

that he may be Shiva or Brahma. If he is not Rama or 

Narayana himself, I do not know who he is ! Who is there 

in our city who can match him in the art ? ' * 

Seeing the plight of Indrajit, his guard flew to his help, and 

on this side Angada came to support Lakshmana and Hanuman. 

"The Vanara heroes flung rocks and stones and tree-trunks, and 

the guard too was all but destroyed. 

The Rakshasa was ashamed at the fate of his army and 
exclaimed to his associates, ' What shame is this ? Our army of 
forty myriad myriad troops is destroyed ! But they replied with 
pride, ' The Vanara forces are no less punished by the torrents of 
darts — we are not behind them in valour ! ' As Indrajit was still 
exhausted by the endless fight, such of his personal guards as 
were still alive took his place and continued the fight, but they 
too were soon overwhelmed. 

The wounded Rakshasas ran panting for water, and panting 
died. Some slaked their thirst with water from the clouds and 
died drinking. Rakshasa women who had come to the field to 
encourage the heroes to greater heroism by their presence became 
satis 2 and died embracing their dying husbands on the battle-field 
itself. Some wounded Rakshasas warned their brothers and sons 
and said, 

' If this should be the might of Rama's brother, 
The doom of Lanka is not far ; so, fly 
Before death overtakes yon Indrajit.' 
And saying, died. 3 

Now, Lakshmana saw that one single final effort would finish 
his foe and so, exhausted as he was, he pulled himself together 
and bent his bow and sped against Indrajit arrows more powerful 
than Yama's. The darts tore sheer and felled down the new 
armour of the Rakshasa. But two of his faithful guards who 
were close by rushed against Lakshmana who was fighting singly 
from on the shoulders of Hanuman, and rained on him an iron- 
shower. Lakshmana, however, not only parried the arrows aimed 

1 VI xviii 120. 

2 Self-immolators on the funeral pyres of their husbands. 

3 VI xviii 167. 


at him, but destroyed their bows and chariots shooting down 
their horses. They were not non-plussed but took their clubs 
and struck Hanuman on whom Lakshmana was seated. But who 
could match the great Maruthi in hand to hand fight ? He 
plucked their two maces each with one hand, and would have 
smashed them had they not fled from the field in utter dismay. 

Meantime the Vanara heroes who had retired from the battle 
returned, and the Rakshasas also rallied, and again a hail-storm 
of rocks and tree-trunks and clubs and shattering darts began 
to blow. Indrajit, who had by now recovered from his exhaustion, 
broke the force of the enemy's missiles with his mighty arrows 
saying, 'Is this all your boasted might ? ' The sun was about to 
sink into the western ocean. Vibhishana noticed the rapidly 
sinking sun and warned Lakshmana saying, 

' Invincible is Rakshasas blood when Night 
Doth ride the heavens : if thou fell not the foe 
This minute, he wins, and all the laurels won 
This day do go in vain.' 1 

So with one mighty effort Lakshmana shot his terrific arrows 
against his great foe. The chariot broke into a thousand fragments, 
but the Rakshasa was not hurt. In a trice that ' most worthy 
among the workers of evil and dearly beloved of the Spirit of 
Illusion ' assumed an invisible shape and rose from his shattered 
car, and entered the solid darkness of the lowering sky. 

The gods were filled with joy when they saw no trace of 
Indrajit. And Lakshmana also was glad that victory had blessed 
his arms. He got down from Hanuman' s shoulders and handed 
his mighty bow to Angada, and, as a preliminary to giving himself 
much needed rest, he began to pull out the arrows with which 
Indrajit had sown his body all over. But, 

Alas ! He knew not that the hour was big 
With fate inevitable .... For, their foe 
Of cobras fierce the dreadful spell pronounced 
And sped on them his darts with mortal aim. 

Lo, every dart became a monstrous snake 

And hissing clove the air with force abnorm, .... 
Driving the very darkness forth, and bound 
Their arms with many a scaly fold involved. 2 

1 VI xviii 180. 2 VI xviii 188-190. 


The cobra-torts flew in their myriads and bound every one 
of the Vanara host after wounding them all over the body. 
Vibhishana alone was not touched as Indrajit had pronounced the- 
incantation only against non-Rakshasas. Blood flowed in torrents. 
The heroes were writhing with pain. They were hungering to 
revenge themselves on the Rakshasa, but, whenever they tried to 
rise, the strangling hold of the serpents would drag them down 
and keep them transfixed to the spot where they had fallen. They 
would look at Lakshmana and feel for his bonds ten times more 
intensely than for their own torturing pains. They would ask 
Vibhishana, ' Is there no remedy for this ? ' They would say, 
' Hanuman alone can save us in this plight,' and ask, ' Is he 
alive ? ' But Hanuman's mighty arms too were bound in the 
same living coil and he, though unmindful of his pain, was tortured 
with grief for the fate of Lakshmana. Angada, Nila, Sugriva 
himself — all were held prisoners in the same strangling hold. 
And Lakshmana, 

though conscious of power to break through his bonds 

was robbed of his will to break through, even as the human 

soul, though possessed of infinite wisdom, is still entangled 

in the folds of Maya. 1 

Soon a deadly silence began to creep over the Vanara army. 
The heart of Indrajit was at last glad. ' I have today accomplished 
my oath,' he said ; ' Lakshmana and the monkey host are 
destroyed today, and after resting tomorrow I shall return and 
finish the other man and whatever remains of the Vanara army.' 
And, his heralds announcing his victory before him, he entered 
the gates of Lanka and proudly marched off to Ravana's palace, 
the while he was pursued by other missiles — the admiring glances 
of the Rakshasa damsels. There he announced his victory to his 
father, and taking his leave he went to his own palace and began 
to rest his tired limbs. 

Rama had not come to the field this day, as he had the fullest 
confidence in Lakshmana's strength and valour, and as he desired 
to give him all the honours of the day. 2 When he was informed 
of the fate that had overtaken his brother, he was overwhelmed 
with grief. Having recovered from the first paroxysm of grief, 
he reprimanded Vibhishana on his coming near him for not calling 
him to the field when Indrajit came to engage Lakshmana. 3 But 

l VI xviii 201. 2 See page 111. 

3 Rama did not intend to allow Lakshmana to fight without his aid. 
against Indrajit. He permitted him to go alone only against Atikaya. 


Vibhishana with tears in his eyes told him all that had happened, 
and how the last weapon was an unforeseen surprise even to him 
and added, 

' They're living yet : but for the magic spell 
Could ever mortal valour have sufficed 
To bring them down ? Grieve not, therefore, my lord, 
But hope : can sin o'er virtue ever prevail,' 1 

Rama now asked Vibhishana to tell him the nature and power 
of this cobra-noose of which he had never heard before. ' It was 
created by Brahma,' he replied, ' and obtained from him by Shiva 
and gifted over by Shiva to such as do very severe tapas and pray 
for it. And, 

No force can ever loose its strangling hold : 
It falls not till its victims die. If e'er 
The noose can be uncoiled, self-uncoiled 
Alone 'twill fall : not e'en the four-faced One 
Supreme can break its mortal spell ! ' 2 

Rama cried out in despair, 

' Shall I direct my darts against the Gods 

Who forged the deadly arm ? Or shall I end 

The worlds and take my life ? Shall I reduce 

To ashes this sinful city ? If the God 

Who framed this spell undoes its fatal force 

I'll cool my wrath : if he refuse, be sure 

Within a trice I end the universe 

Even as Shiv the cities three ! If dies 

My brother, then what to me is glory ? What 

Is Dharm ? And what is infamy ? ' 3 

But how can he, who came down specially to protect the 
universe, continue for long in his mood ? And so the poet says, 

But in his heart 

The springs of mercy soon began to flow : 
He called to mind how heinous it would be 

1 VI xviii 233. 2 VI xviii 232. 

3 VI xviii 238-240. 


To end the worlds for wreaking vengeance on 
A single foe ; and then unknowing what 
To do, he sank in blank despair. 1 

When Rama was thus become a prey to despair, and the 
gods were trembling with fear as to how all this would end, 
the heavenly Eagle, Garuda, the terror of all serpents mortal and 
immortal, who also had been watching the combat along with the 
gods from a distance, spread his mighty wings for flight, and 
arriving at the place where Rama was standing, fell at his feet 
and worshipped him as his master, the Supreme Narayana 
Himself. At the very touch of the air flapped up by Garuda's 
wings, behold, the serpent noose lost its spell and the Vanara 
heroes and Lakshmana broke through their bonds as if they were 
no stronger than filaments of lotus stalk, and rose as if fresh 
from the hands of the Creator Himself. The magnificent stanzas 
in which Kamban describes the majestic flight and appearance of 
Garuda have scarcely a parallel in literature for the roll of their 
rhythm and the grandeur of the image that they present to the 
eye of imagination. Though conscious of the impossibility of 
giving an adequate translation of them, we feel bound to attempt 
a translation and give some idea to the reader of their grand 
swing. 2 

As soon as the Vanaras were released from the cobra-noose, 
they raised a shout that shook Lanka to its very centre, and 
Ravana soon learned that the magic spell was broken and that the 
Vanaras were as ready for fight as ever. He then sent for his 
son and told him that, as it was but natural that he should desire 
again to fight those that had escaped so narrowly from his hands, 
he should command the army that day also. But, as Indrajit was 
too tired, he requested his father to send others to engage the 
enemy, and so other leaders and Makaraksha, the son of Khara, 
were sent against the Vanara host. 

Mahaparshva and Dumaraksha, two of the five commanders 
now proposed to be sent, were at first found out to be 
none but the guards of Indrajit that had fled from the field 
the previous day from the clubs of Hanuman, and Ravana 

1 VI xviii 241. 

2 The translation of these seven stanzas are missing in the manuscript. 
Aiyar appears to have postponed translating them but died before he 
could do it. They are verses 243 to 249 of the 18th Padalam of the Sixth 
Book. An inadequate translation is offered with apologies to Aiyar and. 
the reader in Appendix I. (P) 


ordered that their noses should be cut off and that they should be 
paraded through the streets of Lanka and proclaimed as base 
cowards. But Mali opposed, saying that they had fought very 
hard and stayed on the field almost up to the very last, and, if they 
had run away from the battle-field, Indrajit had also all but done 
the same. And who was not afraid in Lanka in these days ? 
For, said he, 

' In Lanka's streets let Lakshmana's name be called 
Aloud but once : alas, a panic wild 
At once does seize our people, and they'd hear 
No more but shut their doors amain ! Such terror 
Inspires that dreaded name ! ' 1 

Ravana was, therefore, persuaded to give these commanders 
a fresh opportunity to retrieve their good name. They and the 
Other commanders with their troops fought bravely but could not 
stand against the Vanaras. In the end they were all destroyed 
and Indrajit had again to take the field. 

This second fight of Indrajit was still more furious than the 
first. Rama commanded the Vanara army to fall back, as they 
were unable to fight the divine weapons that the enemy was 
using, and took the field himself alone with the bow. Darts 
after darts flew against the enemy, laden with death. The vast 
army of Indrajit was blown to the winds, and Hanuman, seeing 
that grand display of the archer's art, smacked his broad shoulders 
with his mighty paw and sent up a shout of admiration and joy. 
When Lakshmana saw Indrajit coming forward to engage 
• personally with Rama, he prayed his brother to allow him to fight 
•the Rakshasa singly by himself. Said he, 

" The serpent noose, my brother, that helpless bound 

My limbs, has cast a slur upon my name ; 

And men will point at me and say, ' his friends 

He could not save from worse than death ; nor could 

He stand against a valiant foe ; and yet 

He lives ! ' If Indrajitta's head, my darts 

Do not remove, the lustre of my name 

Is gone for ever. I burn t' engage this foe 

Unaided, thyself only looking on ; 

And killing him in single fight, emblaze 

My name 'fore men for service leal done 

->■ VI xix 13. 

L A K S H M A N A 9$; 

To thee, my king and lord. And witness heaven, 

If Indrajit I bring not down this day, 

May I the merit lose for ever that I 

Have earned by service faithful done to thee." x 

When Lakshmana took this solemn oath, the gods were filled 
with joy and said, ' the days of our grief are over ! ' And the 
endless worlds echoed .that joy and the Spirit of Righteousness 
rejoiced. And the heart of Yama also was glad. 

So, during this day, Rama plays but a minor part and even 
that only during the earlier hours of the battle. 

The brothers blew their conches, and at the terrific sound 
■even the lions yoked to the chariot of Indrajit trembled. Clubs 
and steel discuses, lances and spears, maces and sling-stones were 
now hurled at the brothers and also at the Vanaras who were 
drawn up at a distance. The fire-winged arrows of Lakshmana 
brought down the chariots and horses, elephants and Rakshasa 
heroes by the thousand. In that fell massacre you would not 
know which were the leaders and which the ordinary Rakshasa 
soldiers. Lakshmana's arrows would drop the head of the sons 
in the cars of the fathers and the mangled heads of the fathers 
in the chariots of their sons and then resume their flight. Rama 
also joined his fatal arrows to Lakshmana's, and in the end, Indrajit 
stood almost alone with his chariot broken, but, his high spirit as 
high as ever. And getting on to another chariot, and directing 
it to where the two brothers were standing, he addressed them 
and said, 

' Would both of you today engage with me 
Or desires one alone to fall a prey 
To this dart ? Or wish you with the remnants 
Of your broken force to meet your fate ? Decide, 
I'll grant your every wish ! ' 2 

Lakshmana haughtily replied, 

' I've sworn to fell thee dead upon this field 
To-day. Thou mayest choose the sword or bow 
Or lance or fists or any weapon else 
Thy whim dictates : I'll meet thee arm for arm 
And bring thee down.' 3 

-1 VI xxi 39-43. 2 VI xxi 61. 

3 VI xxi 62. ' • 


The rejoinder of Indrajit is no less haughty : 

' I mean today to make the elder brother 
'Gainst nature's way survive the younger born. 
If first I send thee not to thy doom, and make 
Thy elder younger seem and mourn thy loss 
I call not myself son to mighty Ravan ! . . . . 
Mistake me not for Kumbhakarna the brother, 
I am the son of Ravan ! I have sworn 
To soothe the manes of those my brothers dead 
And him my mighty uncle, by oblations 
Offered in the red blood of both of you ! ' 1 

Lakshmana would not be beaten even in this war of words : 

He said, ' Vibhishana is with us here 

Destiny -chosen t' offer sacrifice 

To all the race of doomed Rakshasas. 

But that which thou to thy father owest dead, 

The water-sacrifice, I'll make him give 

Tear-mingled to thy predeceased soul ! ' 2 

Without further words the Rakshasa rained his fiery arrows 
upon Lakshmana and Angada, Hanuman and Rama. But Rama 
saw the Rakshasa alone and unaided, and so, did not bend his bow 
against him but let Lakshmana alone engage him. The sky was 
sown with flying darts burning and tearing each other to pieces, 
and everything around appeared to be on fire. Lakshmana could 
only parry Indrajit's swift-flying darts for a long time, but, when 
the Rakshasa's hand began slightly to slack owing to his terrible 
exhaustion, he seized his opportunity and killed the lions yoked 
to his chariot. Anger nerved the arms of Indrajit, and he regained 
his old vigour and ploughed the bodies of his enemies with his 
terrific arrows, and blew his sonorous conch to the trepidation of 
the Vanara host. Lakshmana again awaited his opportunity and, 
when it presented itself, he pursued his advantage and struck 
down Indrajit's strong armour and twanged his mighty bow. 
Rama was delighted to see his grand archery, and called the 
Vanara army standing at a distance to cheer him with their 
sphere-rending shouts. 

1 VI xxi 63, 66. 2 VI xxi 67. 


Indrajit saw that Lakshmana was invincible by his ordinary 
weapons, and thought again to employ his magic. But waiting 
first to know what the brothers were thinking on their part, he 
rose into the sky, and becoming invisible approached near where 
they were standing. Lakshmana knew by the previous day's 
experience what his enemy was capable of, and so proposed to 
his brother that he should use the terrific Brahmastra and finish 
him and all Lanka. As soon as he heard these words, Indrajit 
flew amain to Lanka saying that, if they would attempt to use that 
world-shattering missile, he would forestall them and prepare it 
himself against them. 

But here on the field, Rama replied to Lakshmana that if he 
vised the missile in his anger it would destroy not only Indrajit 
but all the worlds besides, and that, therefore, he should not use 
it now and endanger the universe for the sake of one enemy. 
The Vanara host now returned to the field, and there was immense 
joy among them to see that the Rakshasa had fled away. Rama 
also went to the rear to make fresh sacrifices to the gods, by the 
strength of which sacrifices alone could the different divine, 
weapons and missiles be used and parried with effect. 

Indrajit, however, asked his father to send Mahodara with 
fresh troops to engage the enemy while he himself went to do 
the necessary sacrifices to the gods and obtain the power to send 
the Brahmastra against them. Mahodara, therefore, led his vast 
army into the field. But Hanuman now took the huge shape that 
he could at will and scattered and destroyed a wing of the 
Rakshasa force headed by Akamba. Sugriva and Angada joined 
in the melee and they attacked and destroyed or drove from the 
field other divisions of the enemy. But Mahodara with his magic 
powers checked the advancing Vanara troops, reformed his army, 
and then by feints at retreating drew the Vanara heroes and 
Lakshmana further south towards the walls of the city. 

As all sound of battle died away in the distance, Rama, who 
was in the midst of his sacrifices for the divine weapons, became 
anxious to know what was happening, left the sacrificial grounds, 
and retracing his steps towards the battle-field followed the track 
of his army which was being drawn further and further south 
by the fascinating magic of Mahodara. Confusion reigned 
everywhere, and it was after hours of anxiety that Rama learned 
from Hanuman that unless he himself sent some missiles of divine 
power the Rakshasa magic could not be overcome. Rama bent 
his bow therefore and sent his darts instinct with the divine 
power of Shiva, and Mahodara, seeing that his magic refused to 



Stand against this class of weapons, rose up in %he air and bided 
his time. 

The field now being absolutely clear of the Rakshasa troops, 
Rama went back to the sacrificial ground to complete his sacrifices 
for the divine astras. But soon after, Indrajit returned having 
perfected his sacrifices and obtained the cruel missiles called 
Brahmastra that destroy whole masses at one fell throw. He 
had not the compunctions that prevented the brothers from using 
such a weapon, and so standing under the cover of the Illusion 
again produced by Mahodara he bent his bow, pronounced the 
mantras of the Brahmastra and released the dart. At once millions 
on millions of arrows flew with deadly force from inside that 
deadly dart, and killed the Vanara heroes by the myriad and even 
Lakshmana himself. 

Having achieved his fell work, Indrajit went back in triumph 
to Lanka and proudly told his father that his enemies were now 
destroyed for ever, for, said he, ' would Rama, if living, forget 
his valour when I stretched his, dearest friends and brother upon 
the field ? ' 

When Rama came back to the field after finishing his sacrifices 
and renewing the power of his astras, he was stunned at the sight 
that met his eyes. Wherever he turned, he saw nothing but heaps 
of Vanara corpses. He saw his Sugriva and Hanuman, Angada 
and Nila, and the rest ploughed with bleeding wounds and fallen 
at the head of their respective divisions ; and his tears fell like 
showers. But when he saw his Lakshmana also a lifeless corpse, 
he fell down plumb, like a sola tree struck by the thunderbolt. 

And who was there to console him in that awful moment of 
soul-shattering grief ? Who was there to separate him from the 
body of his brother which he was embracing with his trembling 
arms ? And who was there to lift him up and bring him to 
himself ? He was alone, all alone in that wilderness of the dead ! 

After hours of silent anguish in that weirdly dark night, Rama 
thus gave expression to the measureless grief that was agitating 
his mind : 

' I died not when I heard of our father's death, 
Though he a kingdom gave, 1 for in thy love 
I learned to forget his loss : but, thee now dead, 
What's life to me ? I come, my brother, I come. 

1 Read : ' I died not though he a kingdom gave ' (to me) . The original 
allows also a rendering as 'I minded not when he gave away the 
kingdom.' (P) 


But wert thou brother alone ? Thou wert to me 
A child and father, mother and blessings all : 
And thou art gone ! And thou art gone without 
A ' Farewell ' said. Alas ! have I become 
More cruel than thee ? For I see thee dead 
And still, pretending sorrow, I bear to live. 
My heart is made of stone, it breaketh not ; 
E'en thy loss J shall bear and cling to life ! 
In all these fourteen years of forest life, 
Through sun or shower, thou labouredst hard for me 
And ne'er didst rest : art thou now gone for rest ? 

Thou hadst forsworn e'en sleep : wouldst not awake ? 
Thy one desire, child, was to see me crowned : 

Now ope thy eyes, behold, I'm grown home-sick ; 
Take me to Oudh and crown me with thy hands ! 

Ah wretch I am that knows not what is love 
Though losing thee, my brother, I am not dead. 
Now who is brother to thee ? Alas our bonds 

Are broke : Nor I nor life are kin to thee ! . . . 
My love of throne has untold misery brought 

On father, mother and all. And for this love 

Of Sita I have sacrificed thee 

Thou wert a brother born but grewest a friend 

Inseparable, thou didst thy father leave 

And mother and Dharm itself and followed'st me. 

But do I follow thee now thou art dead ? . . . 
Why did I part from thee, and let thee fight 

Alone with Indrajit ? I hate myself ; 

I hate this life inconstant : I come, I come ! 

Behold, I follow thee ! ' 1 

Thus lamenting, Rama once again fell into a swoon. 

Rakshasa scouts now thought that Rama also was dead and 
ran to Lanka and informed Ravana that the whole Vanara army 
and the two men lay dead upon the field. Ravana was now 
triumphant and ordered that Sita should be taken over the 
battle-field and shown the corpse of her husband. 

After Sita had come and gone, Vibhishana who had gone to 
look after the provisions of the army returned and saw the carnage 
and the dreadful silence over the whole field. Relieved to find 
"that, though Rama could not be waked from his swoon, he had 

1 VI xxi 206-209, 218, 210, 212, 214, £17. 


no wounds on his body, and hoping that Lakshmana and the rest. 
would escape from this astra even as they did from the Naga pasha, 
he searched the field torch in hand to see if any of the great 
heroes were living, so that he might consult with them as to what 
they should do in this great disaster. He at last saw Hanuman 
with his body drilled with the terrific shafts of Indrajit but with 
life not extinct ; and then, removing the darts from his body and 
cooling him with fresh water from the clouds, he brought him 
back to consciousness. Hanuman now rose with Rama's name 
upon his lips, saw with grief the shambles that their army was, 
and asked if Jambhavan was yet alive as he alone could suggest 
a remedy in that great hour. Jambhavan was searched for and 
fortunately found alive. On being asked, he said that on the 
Sanjivi hill grew the drugs that could heal all wounds and bring 
the dead back to life, and that Hanuman should fly thither and 
bring the drugs, and with their aid restore to life the fallen army. 

So Hanuman flew through the air the thousands of miles 
lying between Lanka and the hill, lifted the hill sheer with his 
hands and flew back to Lanka before the day broke. As soon 
as the hill of drugs was brought, the very air at once wafted 
balsam, and the Vanara heroes and Lakshmana rose as if from 
sleep with all their wounds healed and fresher than ever before. 1 

Lakshmana had now escaped from two disasters. Although 
he fought with a valour equal to that of his enemy, the latter's 
magic powers and unscrupulousness were able to wrest victory 
out of defeat. The challenges that he had thrown out to Indrajit 
were yet unfulfilled, and it was by miracles that he himself escaped 
with life. These two miracles, however, showed that the gods 
were on his side and that he would end by destroying the 
Rakshasa. But how great fights had again to be waged, through 
what great fire he had again and again to pass before he was 
able to bring the head of Indrajit to the ground ! 

i As the Rakshasa dead had been thrown into the sea at the command" 
at Ravana, the balmy air was of no use for them. 



While describing Lakshmana's exploits in the last chapter, we 
had inevitably to speak of Indrajit, the ablest fighter in the 
Rakshasa army. In this chapter we shall study his character as 
Kamban depicts him and describe his last great fights with 
Lakshmana whom he had chosen as his especial opponent. 

We have already referred to Hanuman's estimate 1 of his valour 
even when he was asleep. He is the only Rakshasa who dares to 
Use hard words to Ravana. For, when he hears that Hanuman, 
during his first visit to Lanka, after discovering Sita had destroyed 
Rakshasa army after Rakshasa army that were sent against him, 
and also had killed his brother Aksha who had commanded the 
last army, he rushes to the presence of his father and chides him 

' Thou weighest not the danger beforehand but rushest 
unthinking into it, and then thou sufferest. Even after seeing 
the prowess of that monkey, thou hast sent against him in 
batches those who could never hold their owri against him. 
Is it not then thou that hast killed' them ? When the Kinkaras 
and Jambumali and the five commandants with their goodly 
force returned not with life from the fight, how can we call 
our enemy monkey ? Ought we not rather to rank him with 
Shiva and Brahma and Vishnu ? Thou hast in the days past 
broken the force of the Elephants that hold the universe in 
its place, and conquered the three worlds and lifted mount 
Kailasa itself with Shiva upon it. But now what will wash 
this humiliation received at the hands of the monkey who 
has killed our Aksha ? After this, even a victory ■will not 
be a matter for rejoicing ! ' 2 

So also, when his father tells him that Atikaya was killed in 
;4he battle with Lakshmana, he boldly attacks him saying, 

' Is't Lakshman killed my brother ? No ! 'tis thou 
That sent him to the slaughter. Knowing their might 
Why sent'st thou not for me before ? The foe 
That killed my other brother thou sent'st away 

1 See page 83. * V xii 9-11. • ■ ■ 


Unthinking, for, sooth, he as an envoy came. 

And now where are thy sons to guard thy throne ? 

Past are thy days of glory, Sire ! ' * 

But though he chides his father to his face, he is extremely- 
jealous of his father's glory. For instance, when he learns that 
Hanuman had ended Aksha he exclaims, 

' Alas, 'tis not my brother that is dead — 
It is my father's glory faded lies 
Upon the ground.' 2 

When, on reaching the battle-field he sees the ground 
soaked with the blood of Rakshasas killed by Hanuman, he is filled 
with shame that Rakshasa blood should be spilled in Lanka by a 
monkey. Says the poet, 

He saw his comrades dear to him as life 
Or th' apple of his eye, all fallen dead 
Upon the ground, and endless phalanx fierce. 
He saw the shambles they had become, and at 
The sight he bit his lip ; and who could sound 
The grief and shame that agitated him ? 
A stick that probes a bleeding wound does give 
A lighter pang. 3 

When, at the Rakshasa council, Ravana speaks of heading an 
army himself against Rama, Indrajit considers that he should 
never think of doing a thing that is so much beneath his dignity 
and asks him to send himself. He says, sarcastically, 

' And thou to march against this puny man ! 
O great will be the glory thou wilt reap, 
And great the triumph in that noble war ! 
Ver'ly thou dost despise the Rakshasas 
That bear the arms divine, now rusty grown, 
That Mahadeva gave and Brahma blessed ; 
And I am grown the least before thine eyes 
Of those that wield the sword ! '* 

1 VI xviii 7, 8. 2 V xii 5. 

3 V xii 18. * VI ii 58, S9. 

IWDttAJIT 103 

And then changing the mood he continues, 

' Even if all the worlds conspire 'gainst thee 
And range their powers upon the field, I'll brave 
Them all and bring thee victory. If I fail, 
I'll brag not myself son to thee, but deem 
Myself a low-born craven. . . . Thou wilt see 
The Vanars lick the dust, and Mother Earth 
Groan with the weight of rolling heads : and I 
Shall torture Sita with the blood-curdling sight 
Of Lakshman's gory head and Ram's.' x 

We have given the reader, we hope, in the last chapter an 
adequate idea of his superb valour. Kamban calls him the 
' perfection of all valorous qualities '. He leaps with joy when 
he finds a brave and mighty enemy to fight with. Thus, during 
Hanuman's first visit to Lanka, 

Though he had conquered worlds before, 
The mighty form of Hanuman when he saw, 
And the field heaped up with masses of the dead, 
' Here is a foe that's worthy of my steel,' 
He thought, and was delighted at his luck 
In having such a foe to fight. 2 

The gods and the whole world live in perpetual terror of 
his valour. As an instance, when he marches to punish Hanuman 
after the death of Aksha, 

Now thundered loud the trumpets and the bells 
Jingling on warriors' anklets proud. The king 
Of gods did tremble for his very life. 
Even the Three Supreme from Yoga turned 
Expecting fierce war. 3 

The Devas' fear of him, however, was as much due to his 
magic arts as to his valour. For he was an expert in the 
employment of the black art as in the wielding of the weapons 
of war. So much so, that anybody who displays an extraordinary 
cunning is dubbed at once in India as Indrajit. We have seen 
him, in the last chapter, resorting to the Naga pasha and 

l VI ii 60, 61. a V xii 15. 3 V xii 4. 


Brahmastra after concealing himself from human sight. We shall 
presently see him try to throw Rama off his guard by another of 
his magic tricks and by false threats uttered before Rama's 
faithfullest servant Hanuman. 

For, when he found that Rama was not touched even by his 
Brahmastra which brought down the whole of the Vanara army, 
his hopes of final victory by pure deeds of valour began to grow 
dim, and he spoke to his father, disclosing his plans for the third 
day's fight, prefacing his speech by his opinion of Rama : 

' Man he is not, nor Indra, ancient foe, 

Nor Rishi striving after Brahmagnan 1 

I doubt not now that he's the Ancient One 

Adored by all, as Vibhishana held forth, 

But not for that shall we our strivings cease : 

Though fallen are our heroes great there's hope 

Of victory yet for us : if I but go 

To the field of Nikumbhal and undisturbed 

I can perform my magic rites, I win 

The power to conquer even him.' 2 

And then he explains how he proposes to put the man and 
the Vanaras on the wrong scent : 

' By magic art I'll make a breathing shape 
Like unto Janaki, and sever its head 
In sight of Hanuman, and straight proclaim 
I fly to Oudh, and for revenge destroy 
The city and its king. Despair will seize 
The Vanar army and the Man and they 
Will either leave this land or send to Oudh 
The mighty Hanuman and suspend war 
Till he return. Meantime my rites complete, 
I fall on them with mortal weapons new, 
And bring thee triumph sure.' 3 

Ravana agreed to this and Indra jit went his way to make 
the living automaton. 

Meantime, the Vanara army that was restored to life by the 
hill of drugs determined to set fire to Lanka, and set about to 

throw burning tinder and torches into the interior of the city. 


1 Knowledge of the Ultimate Reality. 

a VI xxv 13, 14. 3 vi xxv 16-18. . / > k*v;^| 


"Hanuman who had gone north to restore the Sanjivi hill to its 
place returned to Lanka and joined in the work. As, however. 
Tie approached the western gate of the city, Indrajit appeared 
before him sword in hand, dragging by the hair the automaton 
made like Sita, and said, 

' It is for Sita ye are making war : 
My father careth not for her, and lo 
I spill her blood e'en 'fore your eyes ! n 

Hanuman knew not his trick and was taken aback. He knew 
not what to do. In his confusion he thought a soft word might 
save Sita and so he prayed to Indrajit to release her. He therefore 
.addressed him in these words : 

' O worthy son of a worthy race (thou art 

The fifth in direct line from Brahma great) 

Kill not a woman, shame not thy ancient line ! 

Thou hast the shasters mastered and the Ved : 

Knowest thou not 'tis a crime and also shame 

To fell a woman dead ? Behold, the Earth 

Doth tremble at the sight and heaven above 

And yet thou pity'st not ! O spare the fair ! 

If thou deliver her to me, I'll pray 

That all the worlds may own thee king for ever. 

Alas, forgettest thou the glory great 

Of thy race ? Disgrace not thou its ancient name ! ' 2 

Indrajit only laughed at Hanuman and replied, 

' Well hast thou said ! We'll purchase safety, sooth, 

Me and my father, by delivering Sita ! 

And great will be the glory thereby reaped ! 

No, I will kill her straight and send my shafts 

That'll make you flee for life, and 'stablish firm 

My father's throne — But all I have not said : 

For I shall first to Oudh and burn her walls ; 

Guard her if e'er ye can ! Behold I speed 

Thither : Nor gods can save thy master's mothers 

Or brothers. Behold, my flaming arrows fly ! 

Already, hark, their death-groans rend the air ! ' s '; 

1 VI xxv 31. 2 VI xxv 34, 35. 

; *VI xxv 38-41. 


So saying, while still the automaton was piteously praying for 
life, he drew his sword and with one stroke severed the head 
from its body and directed his charioteer to steer his aerial car 

Hanuman fell where he stood, stunned, even like a mountain 
torn by its roots. The poet describes his grief and lament for 
Sita's fate in these words : 

' O swan ! ' he would cry out, and sob ; and then 
Would cry, ' O jewel of womankind ! ' He would 
Then call aloud, ' O mother mine ; ' then groan, 
Asking in deep despair, ' Is there no god ? ' 
And then would curse his heart that it did not 
In pieces break when she was killed before 
His eyes. 

He thought of springing on his foe, 
But lacking force he fell upon the ground 
And groaned. His eyes did flash with rage. His frame 
Did shiver for the anguish of his heart ; 
And knocking his huge head against the ground 
He thus lamented loud : ' I thought the night 
Which did the three worlds envelop had passed, 
And dawn was nigh ; alas, the thrice black pall 
Of Misery has fallen once again 
Upon the Earth, and she submerged groans 
Beneath the flood of sin. For the cruel foe 
Has felled down Sita, and Dharma mangled lie3 ! ' 

" The foe does kill that lovely princess pure;. 
I see her killed — a woman killed before 
My eyes ! — and yet I stand transfixed to the spot 
E'en like a bird that has its wings lopped off ! 

bravely have I from captivity 

Rescued her ! Maithili, my Rama's spouse, 
That mother of unsurpassed austerities, 
That spotless daughter of a spotless race, 
A helpless one — her he has cleaved in twain, 
And I have let him go : and now I weep 
As if I have a heart that compassion feels ! 

1 braved the dangers of the deep, O mother, 
And carried Rama's message here, and thine 
O'er there, not for to end this curs'd race 

Nor for to force thee from their hands : I canie 


Alone to see thee killed before thy time! 

And men would curse my name for e'er. When Ram 

Did wander in his grief o'er hills and dales 

Like one distraught, I had the fortune great 

To rouse him back to life with the words, ' I saw 

Thy love, I saw her still alive '. And now 

Am I to say, 'I saw the Rakshasa kill 

Thy spotless .wife ? ' Ah, wretched is my fate ! " 

"I was proud I could the ocean cross, and bridge 
Th' abyss unbridged, and carry off the hill 
Of drugs and aye bring back the dead to life. 
And I to myself boasted, ' There is none 
Among the Vanars like thee '. Alas, 
All my exploits are now no more than scent 
Dissolved in ocean stream. I dared not spring 
Upon the murderous foe and mangle him 
To death ; I died not straightway rending my frame 
In twain ; but saw him kill her undisturbed. 
And still I'll live to fatten this body mine 
With food : is then my glory small ? " l 

After this lament Hanuman came to himself sufficiently to 
enable him to run to Rama and inform him that he saw Indrajit 
kill Sita. When Rama heard the words he was stunned : 

there was no shudder in his frame ; he did not breathe 
heavily ; his eyes did not move, nor tears came from them ; 
he spoke not a word ; burst not his heart ; he did not fall to 
the ground ; he did not sob ; there was no sweat showing over 
his body — the gods even were not able to sound the depth 
of the anguish in his heart ! 2 

The Vanara heroes who heard the news fell as uprooted rocks 
at the feet of Rama. But Rama, 

who was unmoved even as a statue, looked not at the faces of 
his friends ; he would not even reply to Lakshmana's 
questions ; he lost control over himself ; and with his heart 
carved and cut by the scalpel of deep attachment to Sita, 
he fell down on the ground even as a man dead. 3 
Lakshmana could not bear to see Rama tortured with such 
grief. He felt that all their endeavours had come to nought with 
the tragic end of Sita. Especially could he not bear the shame - 

1 VI xxv 45-53. 2 VI xxv 58. 

3 VI xxv 60. 


that they were unable to prevent such a fate from befalling the 
woman whom he looked upon as his own mother. 'And he also 
sank down in grief like a calf that has lost its mother'. 

At length, Vibhishana brought Rama back to consciousness, 
but Rama was still too full of sorrow. Lakshmana too, soon after, 
came to himself ; and, though full of anguish himself and sinking' 
under the weight of such a terrible disaster, he felt that owing to 
the attachment of Rama to Sita, Rama's heart would break 
endangering even his life, and so he addressed to Rama these 
trumpet-like words : 

' When Fate her darkest hour unrolls, and all 

Appears lost, 'tis only weaklings lose 

Their heart and hopeless sink in black despair. 

But wilt thou be like them ? When tarnished is 

Our race itself by this irreparable loss, 

Why slacks thy arm from ending all the worlds 

And Dharma's self at one fell stroke ? Here was 

A woman weak, a helpless one, of life 

Austere, and she thy spouse, as Lakshmi fair : 

If her the Rakshas kills and thou art still 

Engulfed in sorrow, thy rage unroused, I ask, 

Is life so dear ? Or dost thou pity feel 

For men and gods ? What hast thou now to do 

With Dharm itself ? What care we now for gods 

Or Rakshasas, for Gurus, Brahmans, Ved 

Itself ? When violence prospers in the world 

And Righteousness in ruin ends, why sit 

We here with folded arms ? Why hesitate 

To end the triple worlds with fire and sword ? 

Behold, the worlds are still revolving on 
In their appointed spheres ; the gods are still 
Alive ; and men are bowing yet to Dharm 
As if it still exists ! And clouds yet yield 
Their plenteous rain to man ! And bent with grief 
We sit and weep and rise not to end them all ! 
Is not our valour great ? 

Our duty was 
If we but knew, to burn this city vile, 
And scattering fire around, to line with flames 
The roads, all through, that Indrajitta passed. 
And send him to his doom. This unattempted, 
If impotent we sit with indolent arms. 


And water with our tears the earth, will not 

Our manliness look small ? At Ayodh too, 

We feared this Dharma, and renounced our throne 

And wandering in the forests wild, we lost 

Our Sita, tricked by villainous Ravana's guile ; 

And yet we kept our wraths within our bounds. 

Here also to this outrage fell if we 

Should submit meek, what doubt but he will bind us 

In chains and bid us slave for him ? Should we 

Desperate, die by our own hands, the world 

Will laugh at us and say we lacked the strength 

A helpless woman's murder to avenge 

And died consumed with shame. Yield not, therefore, 

My brother to this unmanly, weak despair, 

The portion of the feeble in mind and heart.' 2 

Sugriva was fired with these words, and rose to spring on 
Lanka. But Hanuman told the company, what he had forgotten 
to say before, that Indrajit had threatened to march on Ayodhya 
and that he had seen the Rakshasa direct his aerial car northwards. 
llama's anxiety for the fate of his brothers and mothers at Ayodhya 
was even greater than his grief for the loss of Sita. After a 
moment's agitation he thought of pursuing the Rakshasa on the 
shoulders of Hanuman. But Lakshmana heartened Rama by 
reminding him of Bharata's valour while Vibhishana proposed 
that, as he doubted that Indrajit might have played some trick 
of illusion, he should first go to Ashokavana disguised and see if 
Sita was alive. This proposal was immediately agreed to, and 
Vibhishana soon returned with the happy news that Sita was still 
alive and unharmed. He also further brought the information 
that Indrajit had gone to the field of Nikumbhala to perform a 
sacrifice, and proposed that Rama should send Lakshmana 
immediately to attack him there and prevent the completion of 
the sacrifice, as it had been foretold to Indrajit that if he 
completed this sacrifice at Nikumbhala he would be able to destroy 
his enemies, no matter who they might be, without fail. Rama 
agreed to it, gave Lakshmana the great bow of Vishnu surrendered 
to him by Parshu Rama, and after telling him with what weapons 
to parry the Rakshasa's divine weapons and enjoining him not to 
use the Brahmastra even if the enemy should use it, sent him to 
the fight with his blessings. 

i VI xxv 65-71. 


At Nikumbhala Indrajit was at his sacrifice invoking the 
gods for invincibility and final victory. The sacrificial ground 
was guarded on all sides by the Rakshasa army standing silent in 
circular formation called the Chakravyuha. Lakshmana and his 
host now came to interrupt the Yajna and the battle began. 

The Rakshasas met the challenging shouts of the Vanaras 
with their counter-challenges, and their rocks and tree-trunks by 
their arrows and maces and clubs and lances. The Vanaras and 
the Rakshasas fell by the thousand, and the sacrifice was 
interrupted. The limbs and trunks of the dead Rakshasas fell on 
and desecrated the sacrificial fire. Their heads fell on the pots of 
the sacrificial water and broke them in pieces. The blood of the 
Rakshasas flowed in streams and extinguished the fire in the chief 
sacrificial pit. The sacrificial buffaloes were killed by the swords 
and lances still grasped by the torn and falling arms of Indrajit's 
loyal soldiers. Lakshmana's arrows destroyed the Rakshasa army 
' like the whirlwind, like the engineering art of the Kalingas 1 , 
like an epidemic of disease, like acid thrown in milk.' 

Wherever Indrajit turned his eyes he could see only the 
heaped up carcasses of elephants and heroes, the broken fragments 
of chariots, the heads of his valorous soldiers, and a sea of blood. 
'He could not see the bodies of his heroes — he could see only streams 
of blood issuing from the fragments of their mighty limbs. He 
saw the rest of his troops flying for life everywhere and dying 
or dead or crouching with terror in their flight. And so he 
stopped his invocations, and rose like a smoke-topped pyramid 
of flame — about to be quenched. He thought that the extinguishing 
of the sacrificial fire foreboded his own end. But like a true son 
of battle he feared not but prepared to meet Lakshmana and the 
Vanara army. 

Hanuman now came within his earshot, and taunted him with 
these words : 

' O Rakshas of a hundred million lies ; 

I ween I saw thee kill our Janaki 

And fly to Oudh ? When didst thou thence return, 

My warrior bold ? I hope success has smiled 

On thee ! I hope thou hast that city fair 

1 Read : ' military engineering art '. Aiyar here renders the original 
phrase ' KaUnga-K-Kammiar noolena ' in a sense more apposite to the 
other terms denoting forces of destruction than the more commonly 
accepted meaning of ' the yarn of the workers on (the) cloth (loom) * 
which is inappropriate as it refers to the frequent and easy snapping of 
the yarn and is therefore the thing destroyed.' (P) 


Uprooted, and Rama's race destroyed ! I hope 

Thou hast thy bow-craft shown to saintly Bharat, 

Strong as the mighty Shesh that bears aloft 

The spacious earth and all that is thereon ! 

I hope thou hast his youngest brother met 

In battle face to face and conquered him ! 

I would not be surprised if e'en their heads 

Thou hast as trophies brought. Knowest thou perchance 

That now thy circling battle-front is pierced ? 

Hath twang of Lakshman's battling bow by chance 

Entered thine ear ? . . . Is it the noose to-day 

That thou wilt wield, or Brahma's fatal dart ? 

'Sit dart of Mahadev or Vishnu's disk 

Thou dost purpose to hurl ? We die with fear, 

O mighty sire, of all thy armoury ! . . . 

E'en if Maheshvar comes to save thy life, 

Or Vishnu from His Sea, thy doom is fixed 

Today. I see the tremor ominous 

On the wrong side of thy frame : stay'st thou to fight 

This day ? Behold the hero challenging 

Who's sworn to take thy life ; the thundering twang 

Of his strong bow, I crave to know, is it 

An indispensable part of sacrifice ? 

The Gods are come to see him wield the bow 
The supreme archer, brother to mighty Ram. 
Death comes to every man one day — so why 
Dost hesitate ? n 

Though Indrajit now saw that he could not contend against 
Xiakshmana, his hauteur did not abate an inch, and he flung these 
words at Hanuman : 

' Well hast thou learnt my words from me, and now 
Forestall'st me well ! And ye to taunt me thus ! 
Where is the fight, in all our battles fought, 
In which ye were not crushed ? With life restored 
Ye forget clean your enemy's death-winged shafts ! 
Again ye thirst for death and challenge me : 
Have you preserved the drug that saves from death ? 
Let Lakshman come or Ram, let those that feel 
They can now come to guard ye from my darts ! 

1 VI xxvi 70-78. 


The gods will only see the carcasses 

Of Vanaras dead heaped up upon the field, 

And anguish of their human masters feeble ! 

Long as I have my brawny arms and bow 

I let no foe return alive — or man 

Or hunch-backed ape. E'en if ye refuge take 

In heaven, I will pursue ye even there 

And end ye all : and e'en Sanjivi Hill 

Cannot restore ye back to life ! Because 

My sacrifice is interrupt, dream not 

Therefore that victory will now be yours, 

Nor brag in imitated speech of prowess 

That '11 ne'er be yours. I waste my words no more : 

The darts that one by one will cleave your necks 

And drop your heads upon the blood-red sward 

Will blazon forth my might to all the worlds. 

I am not skilled like ye in the boaster's art, 

But this I'll say : thrice have ye bit the dust 

'Fore me. Have ever ye stood your ground to face 

Me in my rage ? And now at least have ye 

To face me trained yourselves ? Or will ye fall 

Upon the field and stretch yourselves in death ? 

Or will ye flee from here for life ? n 

So saying Indrajit blew his war-conch and twanged his bow. 
At the mere sound the common Vanaras threw down the stones 
and tree-trunks in their hands and ran for their lives. The 
leaders, however, stood their ground and gave him battle. 
Hanuman took a giant rock and hurled it with such a force that 
even his father, the God of Wind, trembled with fear. And the 
gods said, ' what is too heavy for such brawny arms ? ' The rock 
flew with the force of a thousand thunderbolts, and the worlds 
trembled at it, and the Rakshasa host fled in terror. But Indrajit 
laughed, and saying, 

* Well done, my Vanar brave ! Thou hop'st with stones 
To throw me down and kill me 'fore the gods. 
Perhaps a monkey can this feat ! ' 2 

sent a forceful shaft against that rock and blew it into fragments ; 
but even the unwinking gods did not see when or how he aimed 

1 VI xxvi 80 to 85. 2 VI xxvi 91. . - 


his arrow. As Hanuman was lifting another rock Indrajit sent 
a score of arrows against him and struck him down senseless. 

Sugriva now took his place. But Indrajit despised his 
strength and said, 

' E'en though they rush on him with scowling eye, 
Does e'er the lion turn from elephant chase, 
And stop to war with chattering monkeys vile ? 
Go, bring me - Lakshman who may stand some fight 
And give my darts some work : fall not a prey 
To their deadly point. Saw'st not thy Hanuman 
Felled down ? Art thou more strong ? Hold I not still 
My mighty bow ? Has ever my right hand failed 
Me up to now ? Hast thou forgot thy lesson 
Of yesterday ? Or hast thou gained new strength ? 
Show me the man, and flee with all thy host 
To thy native hills ! ' l 

So saying, he turned towards where Lakshmana stood, but 
the Vanara heroes rained on him rocks and stones, and received 
his arrows on their limbs. Great was the havoc that the 
Rakshasa's arrows played upon the Vanara army, and Vibhishana 
prayed to Lakshmana to check his course. Hanuman had now 
recovered from his shock, and taking Lakshmana upon his 
shoulders strode to the front and stood facing Indrajit's chariot. 
And though the chariot was drawn by a thousand horses, neither 
in appearance nor in fact did the advantage rest with the Rakshasa 
— so mighty and so swift was the great Vanara. Lakshmana's 
arrows rushed through the air like fire, like thunderbolts, like 
ghouls searching for living prey, like famine, like epidemic disease, 
like the fruits of the sins of man when they return home to him 
in their season, like molten metal, like vultures sweeping over 
their prey for the sake of their living. But, for every arrow the 
Rakshasa had a counter, and he sped his arrows in such multitude 
that Vanaras wondered whether the world could contain any more 
of them. Indrajit's chariot made its evolutions over hill and 
dale, mound and plain, to catch Lakshmana at a disadvantage, 
but Hanuman was as swift as the war-horses of Indrajit, and he 
never for a single moment exposed Lakshmana's unguarded side 
to the enemy. Such was the swiftness of their evolutions that 
even tried warriors could not tell which was Lakshmana and 
which the Rakshasa. The gods were glad that they were given 

1 VI xxvi 98, 99. 



to see such a fight as never was fought before. The combatants 
looked like two avatars of Durga — the war-goddess — striving 
against each other. The arrows clove the air with such swiftness 
that they were right who said, ' behold, the arrows fly the air ', 
and those also were right who said ' no, arrows cleave the air.' 
The gashes in the bodies of the combatants alone showed that the 
arrows had left the bow-strings — so rapid was their flight. Far 
as the eye could reach, the sky was overcast with flames and 
smoke. The very stars became cinder in that iron-hail. The 
twang of the bow-strings rent the air like thunder. There was 
explosion everywhere. The raging darts beaked each other. The 
seas dried up, the hills crumbled to pieces, the trees caught fire, 
the bodies of the combatants were crumpled up in the fire of the 
burning arrows. 

At length the armour of Indrajit was torn open and his body 
was pierced by Lakshmana's arrows. But he did not mind this 
and sent his darts which wounded Hanuman all over. Seeing 
Hanuman wounded, Lakshmana got down and aimed at the 
Rakshasa's chariot and sent it into a thousand fragments. Indrajit 
now wounded and stunned Lakshmana with ten arrows rapidly 
fired. But the latter at once recovered and pierced the enemy's 
chest and arms with arrows that flew with the force of Shiva's 
foot when he kicked Death in order to save Markandeya. Then 
Indrajit drew out his divine weapons one after another, but 
Lakshmana was able to parry them all by similar ones. At length, 
seeing no other way, he sent the Brahmastra against Lakshmana. 
The gods trembled and prayed for his life. But, though it was 
against the injunction of his brother, Lakshmana sent the 
Brahmastra himself to parry his enemy's weapon, and showed to 
him that it was not for his ignorance of its use that he desisted 
from using it during the second battle. Indrajit's Brahmastra was 
destroyed by Lakshmana's which in addition threatened to consume 
the whole world. But Lakshmana aimed another missile at his 
own Brahmastra, and made it innocuous ; and the gods exclaimed, 
4 what is there that is impossible to men of heroic mould.' 

Indrajit now thought that perhaps the Narayanastra may 
finish Lakshmana, and so, saying, 

' If thou can parry this, none can oppose 
Thee on the field. But this will send thee sure 
To heaven — I know it cannot fail,' 1 

1 VI xxvi 146. 


lie aimed it at Lakshmana with all his might. It came like a 
roaring fire, and Lakshmana, knowing that it could not be opposed 
by any other divine weapon, meditated on Narayana, its presiding 
deity and faced it ; and lo, it turned aside, went round Lakshmana, 
and gathering its force into itself evaporated in smoke, harmless. 
Indrajit wondered at the miracle and once more doubted that 
Lakshmana might be the great Narayana himself. But checking 
his thought, and saying, ' It does not matter who he is, I will fight 
him to the end,' he invoked the Maheshvara-astra and sent it 
flaming through the air. It came filling the vault of the sky and 
exploding from its body lances and axes, red-hot arrows and 
living fire, poisons and cobras and thunderbolts, the grisly shapes 
•of death, and black ghouls and giant demons. 

The world-consuming fire now issued from 

Its loins, and now the whirlwind sweeping clean 

The earth and all that lives on Judgement Day. 

And now the waters of the seas beyond 

The seven did issue forth from its entrails. 

The sky it darkened as with outer darkness. 

The gods in terror fled, and Rishis left 

With whitened face the field : The Vanar host 

Sank in despair upon the ground ; and moon 

And sun and all the worlds their orbits swerved 

In fear ! Vibhishan trembled at the sight 

And called the holy name aloud of Ram, 

But lion-like Lakshman only smiled. ' Fear not ', 

He said to those who ran to him in fear : 

' Fear not, trust in my valour, ye are saved.' 

He said, and straight invoked the Infinite One 

On whom Shiv himself meditates, and sped 

His dart with unsurpassed force. And lo, 

It shattered in the air th' exploding dart 

Of Ravan's mighty son. It did no more, 

For Lakshman in his mercy did command 

That it should spend itself when was destroyed 

Its deadly target. The heavens did shout for joy 

And earth ; the seas and clouds the chorus joined ; 

And Dharm and Wisdom cried out, ' Victory ! ' 

But where's the wonder when Jayalakshmi's 1 self 

Did leap for joy ? 2 

^ The Goddess of "Victory. 2 VI xxvi 156-160. 


Indrajit now came to think that one who could break the 
force even of these astras with such supreme skill should be very 
God. But he slacked not in his duty to his king. Even while 
Lakshmana was aiming at the Maheshvara-astra, leaving Indrajit 
free for the moment, the latter took advantage of the respite, and 
rained his terrific darts upon him and the Vanara leaders. 

But, just then, Vibhishana showed himself before him, and 
when Indrajit saw him actually in the act of aiding and advising. 
his enemy, his indignation grew to white heat, and he burst out 
in the following words : 

' Thou traitor base that hast thy duty broke, 
And beggar-wise dost cringe before a man, 
Echoing like a drum his every word ! 
Think'st thou I'll spare thy miscreant head to-day, 
Because, forsooth, thou art my father's brother ? 
Though, all our leaders dead, the sovereignty 
Of earth and heaven be slipping from our hands, 
We yet can bear our breasts to our foeman's darts : 
But can we think of life distained with shame ? 
As fish that leave not streams though water fails 
The Rakshas race will leave not Ravan's side 
But die with him : the earth alone will rest 
And thou with it ; but who will own thee king ? 

' 'Tis not thy valour helped my father great 
(Who lifted sheer the hill that Shiva guards) 
To conquer Brahm and wield the sceptre proud 
Of the varied world. Thou mayest rule, when we 
Are dead, over Brahma's race, by gods adored, 
Thyself a slave to man ! What carest thou 
For glory ? Ends it not with us ? Ah no ! 
Is not thy glory great ? For hast thou not 
Our secrets to the foes betrayed who maimed 
Thy sister ? Helpest not the men to kill 
Thy brother and me and all the Rakshas race ? . . . 

' And on the day that Ravan's mighty frame 
Shall fall by Rama's darts on the dusty field, 
Wilt thou, O valorous prince, his blood-stained limb 
Embrace and roll upon the ground in grief ? 
Or wilt thou join the victors in their shouts 
Triumphal ? Or wilt fall at Rama's feet 


And cringe for favours, blessing him ? I thirst 
To know thy mind, my noble uncle brave ! n 

Vibhishana justified himself for having left a brother who 
carried off a chaste wife from her husband and persistently refused 
to restore her back to him. And he closed his justification by 

'I know that "Sin can never -overcome 
Virtue : I've taken refuge in Shri Ram 
The God of Gods ; let glory come to me 
Or shame ; let evil come to me or good : 
I am content.' 2 

But Indrajit bent his bow, and saying, 

' Alas ! thy dreams of glory and of good, 
O uncle, will dissolve, the moment dire 
My barbed arrows pierce thy traitorous breast,' 3 

aimed a deadly dart against him. But Lakshmana cut it off 
in mid-air and saved Vibhishana. Indrajit now poised a , 
lance and sent it against his uncle's chest, but it was parried 
and broken in its flight by Lakshmana's arrows. Vibhishana's 
anger was now roused, and taking his mace in hand he attacked 
Indrajit. Indrajit's charioteer was killed, and the horses were 
either killed or dispersed. But Indrajit was not hurt. He, on his 
part, however, sent a shower of arrows against him, and shouting 
a shout that sent the spheres in shivers disappeared in the clouds. 
Indrajit had done all that he could to bring victory to his 
father. Young, brave, full of resource, and proud of the great 
record of his past achievements, he entered upon the war full of 
hope. He knew, of course, the valour of his enemies. But their 
courage and strength only gladdened him. For, their greatness 
would give a lustre to his victory while their feebleness would 
only have brought a paltry success. The first battle, however, 
proved to him that Lakshmana was not an ordinary fighter. He 
conquered him only with the divine weapon of the Serpent-noose. 
When Lakshmana escaped miraculously and stood to give further 
battle, he wondered but did not despair of defeating him. He 
made more elaborate preparations, but his words to his father 

1 VI xxvi 164- HO. 2 VI xxvi 177. 3 VI xxvi 178. 


have the true ring of the warrior who believes that he holds the 
key to ultimate victory. But when he found that this success was 
also only temporary, and that his enemies were able to resuscitate 
even the dead, his hopes fell. His belief in the sufficiency of 
the strength that he already possessed was gone, and he, therefore, 
desired to make new sacrifices to the gods and obtain the gifts 
of invincibility and ultimate success in battle. The reader has 
seen how his sacrifice was an utter failure. The only resource in 
which he put his faith being gone, his third entry into the field 
was characterised by hopelessness. But even when he has lost 
his hope, his nerves are firm, and he displays all his resources and , 
all his skill. His words are still in the high key. His withering 
taunt of his uncle does not lack anything of his customary 
bravado. But the poet ably brings out in that speech the despair 
that has now entered his heart. His words are brave, but he 
has begun to envisage the defeat and death of himself and his 
father. And when he flies over to the audience-hall of Ravana, 
direct from the field of battle at Nikumbhala, his looks betray his 
defeat and despair to his father. 

Ravana saw for the first time in his life the scared look of- 
despair on the face of his son. And he thus addressed him : 

' The barbed darts still fixed in thy chest 

Announce the failure of thy sacrifice ; 

Thy more than adamant frame doth tremble like 

A plantling twig : and thou hast the stricken look 

Of cobras when they sight the eagle swoop 

On them. So, son, now tell me what has passed.' 1 

Indrajit replied with bitterness and humility in these words r 

' Thy brother has betrayed my secrets, Sire, 

To the foe who-has my sacrifices spoiled, 

And broke the force of all my darts divine. . . . 

If weapon blessed of Him who made the heavens 
And earth doth bow to him and turn aside 
Harmless, what can our other arms effect ? 
Our race has sinned, or such a subtle foe 
Arises not for us. If Lakshman frowns, 
I fear he can the three worlds blow to dust. 

i VI xxvii 2. 


The brothers from using Brahma's dart refrained 
In battles past, because, I ween, they feared 
'T would hurt the peopled worlds ; and so I won. 
But now they've parried clean my heaviest arms, 
And having tasted our unconquered might 
They stand resolved to finish all our race ! 

Think not therefore, my liege, that I am seized 
With fear : I speak for love of thee : If thou 
Will conquer thy desire for Rama's spouse 
And her release, they will forgive our sins, 
And go from hence.' 1 

It is not a weakling who spoke these words. For Kamban 

So said the Rakshasa 
Whose arms had to their centre shook the worlds ! 2 
When Ravana heard these words, his heart brimmed over with 
contempt and anger. His pride was up. The mere thought of 
somebody forgiving him was poison to him. And with his reason- 
submerging passion for Sita still possessing his mind, how could 
he, with patience, listen to the words asking him to conquer his 
desire for Rama's spouse ? And so, 

The king of Lanka laughed, and with stinging words 

He thus addressed his son : T ween thou art, 

My son, now unfit grown for war ; I see 

Confusion in thy mind ; fear not the race 

Of men, and worry thou no more. This day 

I'll take the field with only bow in hand, 

With none to guard my side, and I'll bring 

Thee victory ! Think not I counted on 

The Rakshasas who are already fallen : 

Think not that I did count on those who're yet 

Alive : think not I hoped that thou wouldst beat 

My foes upon the field : in my sole right arm 

I placed my trust, and I provoked this war.! 

Thou talkest like a child, my son : this life, 

Transient as the bubble in the stream, 

I may e'en in the sight of beaten gods 

Forfeit upon the field, for then 't will shine 

l VI xxvii 3-6. 2 VI xxvii 6. 


With glory's halo that will never dim : 

But her, can I renounce, I twenty-armed ? 

E'en if I lose, if Rama's name will stand, 

My name, will not it also last as long 

As Veds are sung on earth ? We live to-day, 

To-morrow finds us not : but glory, doth 

It ever die ? Let it be known for once 

That I have Sita sent away, would not 

The gods besiege my Lanka ? Die, I may ; 

But can I stoop to shame and littleness — 

E'en I who. am the terror of the heavens 

And earth ? What more ? thou mayest go to thy home 

And, from thy chest the infinite barbs removed, 

Lay down upon thy bed and sleep in peace ! ' 

He said, and turning on the instant towards 
Th' attendant heralds like a tiger roused, 
He thundered, ' Order forth my battle-car.' 1 

As the reader will remember, Indrajit was cowed down. The 
days in which he could upbraid his father were now over. He 
fell at his feet pathetically saying, 

' Pardon, my liege, the boldness of my words : 
At least when I am gone, may thine eyes see 
The good,' 2 

and made his preparations to go to the field for the last time. 

He took with him the great weapons that the gods had 
surrendered to him after their defeat at his hands, and after 
giving away as gifts all that he had about him to the poor and 
needy who desired the same of him, he left the presence of his 
father. Even as he was going, he would glance at his father at 
every step, and tears would fill his eyes every time that he glanced. 

And as he went the Rakshasa heroes flocked 
To him, and weeping said, ' we cannot stay 
While thus thou part'st ; we'll follow thee and die 
E'en by thy side.' But he their ardour checked, 
And saying, ' Range yourselves around our king 
And liege ; I'll beat them even yet, fear not ! ' 
He went alone. 3 

1 VI xxvii 7 to 12. 2 VI xxvii 13. 3 VI xxvii 15. 


As he passes along the street towards where his chariot was 
awaiting him, the Rakshasa beauties look at him with varying 
emotions : 

Some bowed to him ; some blessed him in their heart ; 
Some trembled for his life ; some sobbed to see 
Him part ; his lordly walk did fascinate 
Some fair ones ; others melted longing for 
His love and soft embrace. l 

In the meantime Lakshmana and the Vanara heroes were 
wondering where their foe had gone, and what he intended doing. 
They had seen too much of his powers before, to leave the field 
boasting of victory. They therefore waited. At length they 
heard the thundering roar of the car majestically moving towards 
them in the distance. The sheen of its gold plates and gems and 
jingling bells pierced the gloom of night, making it look like a 
column of moving fire or some vast aurora borealis. It was the 
matchless, unique car which had ranged the heavens and earth 
and brought victory after victory to the Rakshasa arms. The seas 
boiled ; the hills shook ; the elephants that bore the heavens aloft 
fled in terror ; the earth was scarred with deep gashes ; dust 
covered the earth and sky and made the darkness more dark — 
such was the force with which that grand chariot rolled on towards 
the battle-field. But even that double darkness was ever and 
anon pierced by the dazzling brilliance of its gold and gems, and 
made the hooded snakes shrink their hoods and slink back to 
their holes. 

The rump of the Rakshasa army now reformed itself and 
advanced with terrific war-shouts. Indrajit rained arrows in 
showers, and Lakshmana advanced to face him, deafening the 
world with the twanging of his bow. The Rakshasas and the 
Vanaras fled on either side unable to bear the iron-rain rained 
on them by the two matchless heroes even like clouds. Hanuman's 
whole body was pierced by the Rakshasa's darts which entered 
it like cobras entering their holes, and he minded them not and 
fought on. Lakshmana tore off with a single powerful dart the 
armour of the Rakshasa. But, in spite of it Indrajit did not stop 
his shooting, but rained his darts fiercely on his foe. All his 
arrows, however, were parried by the superior craft of Lakshmana. 
So he took a lance, the gift of Shiva, and launched it right against 

1 VI xxvii 16. 


the neck of his enemy. But Lakshmana sent an arrow which, 
went with the force of curses of the great Rishis, and cut the 
lance in two in mid-air. Again the Rakshasa tried his deadly' 
arrows. But Lakshmana aimed at his quivers and destroyed his 
whole store of arrows, and with another skilfully aimed dart 
felled his charioteer's hill-huge head to the ground. 

But Indrajit flinched not. He took the reins himself. He 
directed his horses with consummate skill with his left hand, and 
holding his bow in the same hand, he plucked the arrows stuck 
in his own mighty body — for his quivers were gone — and speeding 
them back against his foe sent a shudder through the limbs of 
all beholders with his war-cries. Even the gods, his enemies, 
admired his skill and resource, and rained on him the flowers of 
heaven saying, 

' Verily this Indrajit is the first among the heroes who 

deserve to be called the bravest of the brave. True valour 

flinches not even at the point of death ! n 

Even Lakshmana exclaimed, 

' He flinches not : his hand is firm ; he plucks 
The arrows I have buried in his chest 
And aims them back at me, and lo, they come 
Innumerable ! Methinks pure Valour ends 
With him and Ram ! ' 2 

Now Vibhishana said to Lakshmana that Indrajit might 
possibly rise with his car into the sky, or, giving up normal fight, 
try his magic illusions ; and suggested that, as the Rakshasa arm 
is more powerful in the night than during the day, he should try 
to prolong the fight without giving him a moment's respite till 
daybreak. But Lakshmana proudly replied, 

' Would not his car career in the sky 
When I my shattering arrows fling and tear 
Its wheels ? To-day, be sure, there's only one 
Issue to the fight : this day he meets his doom ! ' 3 

After some more fierce fighting Lakshmana was able to shatter 
the chariot of the enemy. But Indrajit stood on the centre-plate, 
of the car and showered his arrows upon Lakshmana, and then 

1 VI xxvii 30. 2 VI xxvii 31. 3 VI xxvii 33; 


rose into the sky. Lakshmana only heard his thundering war-cries 
— he saw not his form. By the force of the tapas that he had done 
in former days, Indrajit unfastened the flood-gates of heaven and 
rained hail-stones upon his foes. The Vanaras fell by the 
thousand, but none could locate him in the sky. So, Lakshmana 
sowed the sky with his fiery arrows and forced him to discover 
himself. As soon as he saw him, Lakshmana used all his might 
and sent a powerful arrow against him that clove his left arm 
clean. It fell like a cloud bearing the many coloured rain-bow 
in its bosom, and in its crash-down it shattered rocks and trees 
and killed innumerable Vanaras also. The gods wondered and 

' We'd thought the moon would fall or Meru hill 

Would crumble and roll upon the ground, ere arm 

Of Indrajit could broken be. If this 

Could from its mighty trunk be torn, then life 

Is but a machine toy : where is the use 

In clinging fast to it ? (1 

But even then Indrajit was not daunted. He took a lance 
which Indra long ago had obtained by doing great austerities and 
at his defeat had surrendered to him, and hurled it with a mighty 
force against Lakshmana. It came like a whirlwind mad, like 
,*he ' male ' thunderbolt, like fire, like Death when on the Day of 
Destruction he consumes all. But the end of the Rakshasa was 
come. It flashed in the mind of Lakshmana just at that moment 
that without the greatest tapas, a foe who could send such a lance 
with such force even when his left arm was clean cut off could 
never be killed. And what tapas could be greater than taking 
the name of Rama with an act of stupendous faith ? So he turned 
aside to avoid the lance, placed an arrow in the rest saying, 

' If Ram is none but He incarnate, whom 
The Vedas sing and Brahmans worship low, 
Then speed, my faithful dart, and hale the head 
Of yonder Indrajit ! ' 2 

pulled the string with all his might and Jet it go. 

It clove the air, shaming the Chakra of Vishnu, the thunderbolt 
of Indra, and the deadly trident of the Fire-eyed God, 3 and 

1 VI xxvii 46. 2 VI xxvii 51. 3 Shiva. 


breathing out flames all over, it struck Indrajit in the neck and 
dean carried off his head ! 

When Indrajit fell dead, the first of those 
That wield the mighty bow, the gods felt sure 
That Ravan's cruel rule could last no more, 
And danced with joy all o'er the fields of heaven, 
Unknowing e'en their clothes had fallen off 
Their forms : so look th' images of the saints 
Which Jainas worship in their fanes. 

The gods now made themselves manifest on earth, and their 
presence resuscitated the Vanaras who had fallen on the field. 
For had they not fought on the side of Virtue ? 

So fell the mighty Indrajit. Lakshmana, like Achilles, lacks 
the supreme grandeur of soul that refuses even to appear to 
take revenge on the dead which characterises Shri Rama Chandra. 
For, he has the head of the fallen Indrajit carried as a trophy 
to his camp and displayed before his brother. 

But the valour of Indrajit is not lessened by any indignities 
shown to his dead body. As the poet makes Lakshmana himself 
say, he is the very personification of valour equal to Rama himself 
in that grand male virtue. It is true that he was bad, cruel, wily. 
But his valour and the heroism that he displays till the very 
moment of his fall make us forget his evil qualities and remember 
him only as the proud defender of his father's glories. And the 
last scene between him and his father, the tears that he sheds 
for him, the appeals that his loyal Rakshasa knights make to him 
to be permitted to die by his side, and his request to them to 
stand by his father rather than follow him, all these add to the 
tragic pathos of the circumstances that make this once proud hero 
enter upon his last conflict with the consciousness that, however 
bravely he might fight, he could not escape his doom. 



We have seen in Indrajit the warrior whose heart is whole, 
that is, is not torn by a conflict of duties. He finds that his 
father has provoked a # war : he does not care to inquire whether 
he is right or wrong, but straightway resolves to fight his battles 
for him, and relying on his valour proudly enters the field with 
the confidence of victory. In this chapter we propose to study 
the characters of the brothers of Ravana who felt that Ravana 
is heading towards ruin in retaining Sita in Lanka, but who 
acted each in a different way in pursuance of his own idea of 
■what duty requires of him. 

Vibhishana is the youngest of the three Rakshasa brothers. 
While Ravana and Kumbhakarna, (the latter in the intervals of 
his deep sleep of months at a time) were conquering and 
oppressing the worlds, Vibhishana was doing acts of righteousness 
and mercy in Lanka. The reader will remember Indrajit's taunts 
that he had no part or lot in the conquests made by his father. 

The first time that we meet him in the epic is when he 

interposes in favour of Hanuman when Ravana orders that he 

should be put to death. He says that the envoy always acts for 

another, and that, therefore, he should never be put to the sword. 

' We have heard of kings putting even women to death,' 

he said, ' but never yet have we heard of princes killing 

ambassadors. Even the gods will mock at us if we stoop to 

this sacrilege. . . . Did not even the Men desist from killing 

our sister ? They sent her away alive after only maiming 

her .... And, if this envoy is killed, how will the enemies 

know and fear our power and strength ? n 

Here we see Vibhishana using only those arguments that 

would find favour with his brother. And Ravana also listened 

to his advice without questioning any further. But, when after 

Hanuman had burned down Lanka and it had been rebuilt, the 

■war-council met, he stoutly opposed the war and recommended 

that Sita should be sent back to her husband. 

Indrajit had scarcely ended his fighting speech 2 when 
Vibhishana intervened in the debate and began by reprimanding 
his nephew, saying, 

1 V xiii 113, 116. 2 See page 102 et seq. 


' Thou art still too young, my boy, to join in this debate. 
Thy mind sees not whole ; thou dost not realise the critical 
nature of the times we now live in, nor the consequences 
of the advice that thou givest. Thou art like a blind man 
who would foolishly attempt to touch up a picture that is 
being painted by artists. . . . 

' Even those who had in former times conquered the gods 
in their might and ruled them in their pride with an iron 
rod, have only fallen ignominously in the end. For who are 
the evil ones that ever permanently ruled the Devas ? A 
truce, therefore, to thy childish, foolish talk ! '' 
After silencing Indrajit, he began to address Ravana in these 
swords : 

'If thou wilt not my words 

Despise, my liege, I'll tell thee what I judge 

Will save our state from overwhelming ruin. 

Thou'rt father, mother, brother to me, and lord, 

To whom I worship owe. I'm pained to see 

Thee threatened with the loss of sovereign power 

More glorious far than Indra's heavenly rule. 

And that is why I dare to stand 'fore thee 

And war oppose. I boast not learning great, 

Or subtle mind that probes all things to their root, 

Or gift of tongue that audience compels. 

Yet hear me to the end, and then alone 

Condemn. . . Our Lanka fair and all thy wealth 

Therein is burned : but are they wise who say 

It is a monkey caused this ruin dire ? 

No, 'tis the fire of Sita's chastity 

That has, believe me, our glorious town consumed. 

That may'st recall to mind the oracle old 

That said that through a damsel fair 

Will wane the mighty Rakshas power. Has it, 

My brother, now lost its force ? ' 2 

Then, after saying that Ravana, in the days when he obtained 
blessings and boons from the gods for his austerities, had neglected 
to obtain invincibility at the hands of men and Vanaras, and 
after reminding him that he had been overmatched in strength 
by Kartavirya Arjuna, the man, and Vali, the Vanara, he assured 

1 VI ii «6, 67, 70. 2 VI u 72-75, 77. 


him that Sita was none else but the incarnation of the woman 
who had fallen into the fire swearing to destroy him in her next 
birth as a revenge for his attempting to violate her, and that 
Rama and Lakshmana were none but the Supreme God incarnated 
in two bodies for the salvation of the world. He said also that 
he had heard that the great Vishvamitra had been their preceptor 
in archery and military science, that Rama had broken the bow 
of Shiva, and that Agastya had armed him with the bow with 
which Vishnu had destroyed the Asuras, and the darts and astras 
with which Shiva had consumed the three flying cities. He then 
.continued : 

' The mighty frame of Vali fell transfixed 

By Rama's deadly dart ; the seven trees 

That covered the earth and sky uprooted were 

By that same force ; and the rock-like heads of Khar, 

Viradh and all were rolled upon the ground — 

And who but Ram that did this feat achieve ? 

Then who could face this Man upon the field ? 

And saints and sages do believe that he 

Will end our race, and walk erect. And gods 

Who lived but in thy smiles, have fearless grown, 

And say that Janaki's the deadly poison 

That is to kill the Rakshasas 

Dark are the omens that we see about : 
Our horses and our elephants — trophies won 
From Devas in our fights of yore — now enter 
Their stalls with right legs to the fore : and hair 
Of many a Rakshas youth and many a maid young 
Catch fire without a cause ; and jackals huge 

Do promenade our streets in search of prey 

So let us not the glory of our race 
Distain with shame, but send away the fair 
Sita, e'er fixed in her chastity. 
No higher victory can bless our arms 
Than this surrender willing ! n 

Vibhishana ended. But Ravana merely mocked at him laughing. 
He said, 

v( Thou spok'st of judgement and of wisdom, brother : 
But what has come o'er thee ? The puny race 

1 VI ii 90-92, 95, 96, 99. 


Of men, thou say'st, will conquer Rakshas might : 

'Sit fear or love of them, I crave to know, 

That does possess thy mind ? I am not armed 

With blessings of the gods, forsooth, to fight 

With men. But did the gods give me the power 

Express to break the might of the Mammoths huge 

That bear the earth aloft, or lift the mount, 

The throne of Shiv ? Thou spokest of curses breathed 

'Gainst me by Nandidev : But am I not 

The targe of endless curses which the weak 

Have flung at me ? And of the Devas, Saints, 

And Sages, who are there that curse me not ? 

And yet I rule the heavens and the earth without 

A peer ! Where then are gone their curses ? I know 

Thy Ram killed Vali great who conquered me. 

But who could face the mighty ape and win ? 

And Rama ambushed him and aimed his dart ! 

Now who but thee can sing the power of him 

Who broke the crumbled bow of Shiv, and lost 

His throne by woman's guile, and lost his home 

By Ravan's sport ? ' 1 

But Vibhishana again pressed his point that Rama was the 
Supreme God, incarnated as man expressly to destroy the 
Rakshasas who were oppressing the worlds, and that, therefore, 
he should not provoke him, but return his spouse to him and live 
with him at peace. But Ravana again spoke of his own might 
and past achievements, and asked, 

' When I, the king of heaven brought in chains, 

Or broke the tusks of th' Elephants divine, 

Or won in every war the rebel gods 

Provoked, where was the God Supreme then hid ? 

Lacked he his might those days ? 

Seated upon their Eagle and their Bull 

Vishnu and Shiv have fled before my darts 

That broke their backs e'en as lightning breaks the rocks' 

He ceased : and winking to his wicked peers, 

He taunted thus his brother : ' Fear not I'll call 

Thee to the field : rest thou at home secure ! ' 2 

1 VI U 101, 102, 106, 108, 109. 2 VI ii 113, 116, 117. 


Even now Vibhishana did not give up his attempt to cure 
his brother of his pride and lust. He prayed to him to listen to 
the story of Hiranyakashipu who was far more powerful and 
stronger than him, and who ruled over even other universes than 
this, and yet who was torn to pieces by the claws of Vishnu 
incarnated as Man-Lion. 1 

Though hardened in his heart against the sending away of 
Sita, Ravana yet listened to the story. It did not, however, make 
any impression on him and when Vibhishana had finished, he 
only taunted him more cruelly and frowned at him. He said, 

' Thou praisedest him who was rejoiced to see 
His father clawed to death. And where shall we 
In all the world his like behold, except 
In thee who tak'st the side of thy brother's foes ? 
And like him dost thou thirst to rule this land 
When I have fallen upon the field ? Think'st* thou 

That Fate will grant thy wish ? 

Thou bearest love to men who're now become 

My foes : Thou dost conspire my fall : thy heart 

Is set upon the Rakshas crown. What can 

My real enemies more ? The day when I 

Commanded that the Vanar should be killed 

Thou saved'st him from my wrath. I knew not then, 

But now I see, the reason why. Thine eyes 

Saw far, and even then thou didst decide 

To join him. A coward thou, unfit 

For martial deeds ! Thy heart is full of dark 

Designs, and thou dost love my hated foes, 

Belying thy race : methinks the cobra is 

Less deadly than thee. Yet I kill thee not 

Fearing reproach. But open not thy lips 

Again, and leave me straight ! If thou dost show 

Thy face in these my realms, thou die'st at once ! ' 2 

Vibhishana at once rose up by his Rakshas power into the 
sky, but even yet his heart yearned for his brother. He again 
spoke to him of righteousness, but Ravana would not listen to 
him. And so, saying, ' I intended nothing but thy good, but thou 
will not listen : forgive my boldness, I go,' he flew with four 

i This episode is one of the most interesting in the whole Ramayana, 
and we shall devote a separate chapter to it. 
a VT iv 4, 6, 7-a 



of his councillors towards where Rama was encamped on the 
mainland with his Vanara army. 

He saw the army and asked his councillors what they should 
do. They said that they must see the Holy One, and he accepted 
their opinion saying, 

' Let us take refuge in Rama's feet and then we shall 
• . be freed from the cycle of birth and death.' * 

He waited till the day dawned, approached the camp, and 
standing in front of it cried aloud, ' O Raghava, I take refuge in 
thee ! ' But the Vanara guards mistook him and his companions 
for enemies and wanted to fight them. The cry, however, had 
fallen on the ears of Rama and he immediately sent a messenger 
to ascertain who was in distress. The messenger ordered the 
guards to desist from molesting the Rakshasas and after 
ascertaining from Vibhishana all that was necessary to know, 
returned and told Rama all that he had gathered. Rama now 
called a war-council and asked each of his friends to give his 
opinion as to whether Vibhishana should be admitted to their 
camp or no. After much discussion, Rama, as the reader will 
remember, 2 accepted Hanuman's opinion and desired Vibhishana 
to be brought in. When Sugriva came and told Vibhishana that 
Rama had given him refuge and invited him to his presence, 

Tears fell down Vibhishan's sable cheeks, 

Joy filled his anxious heart, and his hair stood 

On end ; and thus unburdened he his mind : 

' Did He accept my homage, even mine, 

Who am the brother of him who parted Sita 

From Him ? Or did He pity feel, because 

I come a refugee from Ravan's wrath ? 

Unworthy though I be, O sir, I am 

By Rama's ruth exalted high e'en as 

The poison was when it was drunk by Shiv. 

If this should be His mercy's way, and this 

The counsel of His noble heart, then doomed, 

Alas, is all our Rakshas race ! . . . . 

The blessed Hero, Saviour of the men 

Of holy life, has pledged His word august 

And has accepted me His devotee ! 

Great is my blessing, for I'm saved from cycle 

Of birth and death and aye from the burning pit ! ' 3 

» VI iv 20. 2 See page 67. 3 vi Iv 126-127, 129. 


Vibhishana was in due course ushered into Rama's presence 
and acepted by him as a brother. l 

Rama then solemnly crowned him as King of Lanka, declaring 
that the sovereignty of Lanka would rest in him so long as his 
own name would last on earth. And all the worlds shouted for 

Valmiki motives Rama's acceptance of the Rakshasa to a 
large extent on the tantra of Bheda — i.e. the policy of taking over 
to his side the person who has become the enemy of one's enemy. 
For although — as Valmiki tells the story — Rama tells the war- 
council that he will never turn out any person who comes to him 
as a friend even though he may have many faults, yet when 
Sugriva objects to him as a traitor to his brother, and therefore 
unworthy of faith, he says, 

' The Rakshasa desires sovereignty ; and people of this 

stamp are usually very clever. . . . He fears for his fate in 

his native country and that is why he takes refuge with me> 

giving up his brother.' 

After Sugriva has again reiterated his original objections — 
which appear to be, from the standpoint of dramatic construction, 
entirely superfluous and untimely because Rama's decision has 
been already very clearly expressed and Sugriva brings forward 
no new arguments — Rama gives utterance to those grand words 
•which are so highly prized by all Vaishnavas, among which occurs 
the sentence, 

' When a man filled with fear 
Seeks refuge at my hands, I never say nay, 
I give him protection — that is my vow — so 
Bring him in whether it be Vibhishana or even 
Ravana himself.' 2 

The effect of this noble abhayapradana, 3 however, is almost 
utterly spoiled when Valmiki makes Rama ask Vibhishana, at 

i See page 52. 

2 Griffith translates thus : 

" Bound by a solemn vow I swear 
That all my saving help should share 
Who sought me in distress and cried, 
' Thou art my hope, and none beside.' 
Then go, I pray thee, Vanar King, 
Vibishan to my presence bring. 
Yea, were he Rowan's self, my vow 
Forbids me to reject him now." 

3 Offering protection from fear and danger. 


the very moment that he falls at his feet, to tell him all about the 
defences of Lanka and the army of the Rakshasas. 

That Valmiki depicts Vibhishana as partly at least attracted 
to the side of Rama by his desire to usurp his brother's throne 
would appear from the words that he puts into his mouth when 
he sees Rama and Lakshmana fallen on the battle-field wounded 
by the arrows of Indrajit. Among other things Vibhishana, in 
Valmiki, says, 

' Those two warriors on whose valour I counted 
So much for the sake of my advancement 
Are now fallen on the field and are dead. 
Today I live a ruined man, with all 
My dreams of sovereignty gone for ever.' 1 

These words, taken along with Rama's quoted before, make 
of Vibhishana little more than a common traitor who has had 
the good fortune of having foreseen in time the sure ultimate 
victory of Rama. And this should explain the bad odour that 
surrounds the name of Vibhishana among modern critics of the 
Ramayana in Bengal. But in the south, where the cult of Rama 
as the avatar of Vishnu, if it did not actually take its origin, at 
least found its greatest devotees of genius in the early centuries 
of the Salivahana era, 2 the character of Vibhishana was seen from 
a standpoint widely different from what would be justified by 
the delineation of Valmiki. He began to be looked upon as the 
great Bhakta of Rama, instead of as a selfish adventurer. And 
it is as a Bhakta that Kamban delineates him. That is why he 
takes care that he does not anywhere put into his mouth such 
selfish sentiments as Valmiki does not hesitate to put. That is 
why he elaborates his remonstrations with Ravana to such an 
extent. And that is why, again, he does not allow his Rama to 
speak of Vibhishana as coveting his brother's throne, or to begin 
to discuss with him the defences of Lanka at the very moment 
of his giving his abhaya. 

l Griffith translates as follows : 

'I on their might for aid relied, 
And in my cause they fought and died. 
Lost is the hope that soothed each pain : 
I live, but live no more to reign, 
While Lanka's lord, untouched by ill, 
Exults in safe defiance still.' 

a beginning from 78 A.D. 


Kamban, of course, makes Rama obtain from Vibhishana every 
information concerning Ravana and Lanka. But Rama, in 
Kamban, does not attempt to obtain such information at once 
or of his own initiative. After Vibhishana had been admitted into 
Rama's friendship, Kamban describes Rama as lamenting once 
again over the separation of Sita. As Rama is thus lamenting, 
Sugriva comes to Rama and lightly reprimands him saying, 

' How is it that thou art thus indulging in vain laments 

when thou ought to be up and doing after learning all that 

we can from him who has lately joined us as an ally ? n 
It is only after this that Rama invites Vibhishana to tell him all 
about Lanka. 

By all these devices the sentiments of the critical reader 
are bespoke in favour of Vibhishana and Vibhishana's character 
is saved from the charge of treachery that the circumstances of 
his position inevitably bring against it. 

It is not that Kamban does not realise that Vibhishana can 
be delineated as, at least in part, a self-centred adventurer. He 
has studied his Valmiki, too closely for that. He does realise 
the possibility of such a delineation and it is this realisation that 
makes him consciously and deliberately remove the possibility of 
such an impression being created by some of Vibhishana's actions* 
So, when Lakshmana falls on the field bound by the cobra -noose, 
-Kamban puts this lament in the mouth of Vibhishana : 

' By side of Lakshman are fallen all 

Upon the field, and I alone remain 

Untouched : Oh, what will people say of me ? 

The world will surely think I stood by him 

Alone to have him killed by Indrajit, 

Myself a false-faced spy betraying all 

To my brother's son. Me miserable ! With mace 

I did not rush upon the foe and bring 

Him to the ground, and prove my native valour. 

Nor quitted I this cursed life when I 

Beheld my Lakshman fall : and still I weep 

As if my heart is full of love ! If I 

Had joined in the fight, I could have shattered 

The Rakshas force, and proved my loyal heart 

To Ram. Now neither am I loyal and true 

To the land that gave me birth, nor to the Men 

1 VI v 12. 


With whom I refuge took. I am become 
A faggot that doth burn at both its ends ! n 

Owing to the delicacy of his position, Vibhishana does not. 
take part in the actual fighting in any of the battles. It is only 
after Indrajit aims at him his lance in his third battle that he 
forgets himself and strikes his chariot and horses down with his- 
mace. But it is he, as the reader will remember, that advises 
Lakshmana at every critical moment as to what weapon to use 
and generally what to do. That is why Rama exclaims to 
Lakshmana when Indrajit's head is brought before him after 
the last battle : 

' 'Tis not thy arms, O lion 'mong men, that brought 

The foe of Indra down ; nor owe we this 

Triumph to blessing of a god, or might 

Of Hanuman though great as Shesh himself : 

It is Vibhishan with his counsel sage 

That's guided us to victory ! ' 2 

In order to increase the interest of the reader in Vibhishana r 
Kamban adds some able touches to a scene suggested by Valmiki 3 
in the crude, and at a single stroke raises heaven-high the 
characters of Vibhishana, Angada, Hanuman, Sugriva, and 
especially of Lakshmana, and gives them the stamp supreme of 
Indian heroism. While in one part of the field Rama was fighting 
single-handed the whole reserve force of Ravana, Ravana marched 
with a big army against the Vanaras led by Lakshmana. When 
every other weapon had failed against Lakshmana, Ravana took 
the Mohana-astra, the unfailing missile created by Brahma with 
which even Shiva was conquered by Manmatha, and sent it against 
Lakshmana. It would have ended him then and there had he 
not, at the suggestion of Vibhishana, parried it with the only 
weapon that had power over it, namely, the Narayana-astra. 
Seeing his brother, whom he regarded as the blackest traitor 
imaginable, ruin his only chance of victory at the time when 
it was so near, Ravana burned with anger and hurled against 
him the deadly lance called Shakti which could not be parried 
by any missile in the three worlds. The lance came cleaving the- 
air with a mighty force, and Vibhishana who knew its secret toldi 

1 VI xviii 209-212. 2 VI xxvii 71 

3 Book VI, Canto 101, Southern Recension. x *- 


Lakshmana that nothing could withstand it and that therefore 
his end was come. 

' But ', Lakshman said, ' Thou know'st my skill, fear not, 

Be sure I'll break its force,' and aimed his darts 

Against the rushing lance. But impotent 

They fell, as sinners' curses 'gainst the man 

Of life austere. Great Lakshman saw, and quick 

As thought, he stepped before Vibhishana 

To shield him from the deadly arm. For death 

Was nought to him : but could he bear the thought 

Of seeing him destroyed before his eyes 

Who fearing the vengeance of a brother had ta'en 

Refuge with Ram ? And what is fleeting life, 

Thought he, when weighed 'gainst lasting glory earned . 

By sacrifice of self ? But could the good 

Consent to save themselves at other's cost ? 

Vibhishan rushed before : but Angada 

Outstripped them both, while Han'man and the king 

Of Vanaras sprang in front to face the lance. 

But Lakshman would not change his first resolve 

And rushing past them all received its point 

Upon his mighty chest. It pierced him through 

From front to back and felled him down. 1 

Vibhishana was touched to see Lakshmana fall while saving 
his own life, and mace in hand he dashed against Ravana and 
struck down his horses and charioteer. But Ravana rose into the 
sky, and seeing Lakshmana fallen a prey to his lance, a better 
result than what he had intended to achieve, he did not care to 
aim at Vibhishana whom he despised as a coward ; and proud 
of his victory he flew over to his palace inside the walls of the 

To resuscitate Lakshmana, Kamban, like Valmiki, sends 
Hanuman again to the Sanjivi hills to bring the healing drugs. 
But while Valmiki redescribes the flight of Hanuman in the same 
detailed fashion as he had done the previous one, and makes hini 
look for the hill — he having lost his bearings — , Kamban with 
great tact relieves the reader, who is fearing a repetition of past 
descriptions, by describing the flight and return in half a stanza. 

When Rama heard what had happened, his heart leaped with 
jby. He embraced his brother and said, 

i VI xxxi 28-32. 


' By fearless sacrifice, without a thought 
Of self, of thy precious life for him who has 
his safety sought with us, thou hast, my brother, 
Proved thyself worthy child of Raghu's race : 
Who can thy greatness measure ? We can but try 
To follow thee. Thou hast in ruth surpassed 
Ev'n him our great ancestor who the dove 
Redeemed with his own bleeding flesh. What more ? 
Thou hast the saying proyed, my child, that men 
With ruth-filled heart would rush through fire to save 
Their own from grief, ev'n as the cow would face 
The tiger and the lion to save its calf.' * 

The love of Lakshmana and Rama has cast a halo round 
the name of Vibhishana and the whole of Vaishnava India has 
included him in its catalogue of saints and Bhaktas. But the 
loyalty of Kumbhakarna to his nation and to his king makes him 
thje more interesting and the more lovable of the two brothers 
of Ravana. For, though he upbraids Ravana for his crime in 
carrying off Sita and retaining her in Lanka, he would not leave 
his side and betray his secrets to his enemy though he comes 
to know that enemy to be God himself in human form. 

At the war-council, in Valmiki, Kumbhakarna's speech is not 
properly worked up. There he charges Ravana with having 
provoked the war without having consulted his ministers. He 
does not at all touch upon the moral aspect of the affair in his 
speech which does not fit in either with what goes before or what 
comes after. After saying that, although his brother had got 
into a scrape, he would yet destroy his enemies, Kumbhakarna 
prophesies 2 that by a second arrow Raghava would kill him, that 
is Kumbhakarna. 3 But in the very next sentence he continues, 

1 VI xxxi 48, 49. 

2 This must be due to some interpolation in the text. It is unfortunate 
that the editors of the Valmiki Ramayana have not given the same atten- 
tion to the text in this passage as they have given generally to the whole 

3 Griffith, however, renders differently : 

" No second dart shall Rama cast : 
The first he aims shall be his last : 
He falls, and these dry lips shall drain 
The blood of him my hand has slain; 
And Sita, when her champion dies, 
Shall be thy undisputed prize." (P) 


' Then I shall drink his blood. . . I shall kill 
Rama and Lakshmana and eat up the Vanara chiefs. 
Therefore enjoy all luxuries, drink wine, and dttend 
To thy royal duties without any further anxiety. 
When I send Rama to his doom, Sita will become 
Thine for ever.' 

Ravana, however, fights his first battle without Kumbhakarna 
-who had gone in the meanwhile into his deep sleep of months. 
When he is defeated, he wakes Kumbhakarna from his sleep and 
prays to him in abject tones to take the field against Rama and 
Lakshmana. But now Kumbhakarna speaks in quite a different 
tone altogether. He speaks now of Dharma and Adharma and 
says that Ravana would go to hell for his unrighteousness and 
then makes a long-winded speech about the necessity of consulting 
•one's ministers and advisers before entering upon a big 
undertaking. He winds up, by asking Ravana to follow the advice 
that Vibhishana had given in the beginning. When he ends, 
Ravana frowns upon him, talks some commonplace and then begs 
him to ' repair my errors with thy valour.' When he hears these 
words, Kumbhakarna without any more ado asks him to give up 
his fears, for he will fight and kill Rama and Lakshmana and 
drive the Vanaras out of Lanka. ' Fear thou Rama no more,' he 
says with a patronising air, ' I shall finish Rama, Lakshmana, 
Sugriva, Hanuman,' etc. 1 

But Kamban has given quite a different character to 

Kumbhakarna. At the war-council Kamban's Kumbhakarna 

condemns the unrighteousness of keeping Sita in Lanka, but, as 

the enemy had been provoked and war had become inevitable, 

he proposes that although it was impossible to conquer him who 

had killed Khara, they should cross the sea and attack Rama in 

force on the mainland itself. His Rakshasic pride makes him say, 

' Thou hast left the path of the righteous and thou hast 

made us hang down our heads : but if at this stage we send 

away the fair Sita we shall be merely called cowards. It 

does not matter if we die, for, then our fame at least would 

remain unsullied.' 2 

. 1 To add to the anarchy of the situation, Valmiki makes Mahodara, 
one of the councillors of Ravana, reprimand Kumbhakarna for opposing 
Ravana like a child, and Mahodara does this after Kumbhakarna had 
•changed his mind and agreed to start for the field ! 

a VI ii 53. 


But, in Kamban also as in Valmiki, 1 he does not go to the 
field on the first day of the war as another spell of his long sleep 
had come over him, and Ravana believed that he could win the 
war without him. When, however, Ravana finds his enemy's 
strength by bitter experience, he has Kumbhakarna awakened 
from his sleep, and after feeding him with cart-loads of meat 
and casksful of wines asks him to march against the Vanara army. 
The words of Vibhishana which he had heard at the time of the 
war-council must be supposed to have impressed themselves upon. 
Kumbhakarna's mind and entered deeply into his soul during his 
hibernation, for, he addresses Ravana now in quite a different 
strain altogether. He speaks in this wise : 

' Is war begun, and grief of Sita, chaste 

Beyond compare, is it unended yet ? 

Is our good name that filled the earth and heaven 

Become a story of the past ? And day 

Of our final doom foretold, has it begun 

To dawn ? 

Thy sin has Heaven's king restored to his throne 
And brought the Rakshas race to ruin's edge. 
And Devas thou hast freed from Rakshas yoke ! 
Destruction hangs o'er thee and all thy house, 
Inevitable. The Dharma that did build 
Thy power has fled 'fore thine eyes : now what 
Can prop thy tottering throne ? Thy foes are full 
Of ruth ; their every act is based on Dharm ; 
And courtesy is in their speech. Can we 
Who know but guile, untruth and sin, hope e'er 
To last ? And can they e'er be overwhelmed ? 
The ape who storm-like could the ocean leap 
Is yet alive ; Rama's quiver holdeth yet 
The dart that tore great Vali's chest. What more 
Want we for our success ? 

One final word 
I'll say to thee. If thou would hear, 't '11 do 
Thee good. If thou would not, I fear thy fate 
Is doomed. So send this damsel to her spouse 
And falling at his feet, conciliate 

i But Valmiki makes Indrajit's triumphs with his cobra-noose and 
other weapons precede the flght with Kumbhakarna. In fact there is 
much that is anticlimactic in Valmiki's description of the war: 


Thy brother and live in peace. If this thou hatest 
To do, and dost decide to fight to th' end, 
Battle at least with all thy forces joined, 
And try to overwhelm the foe.' 1 

But all this advice is only gall and wormwood to the proud 

' 'Tis not to consult thee,' said he, ' that I 
Did call thee here '. I bid thee go and fight 
The men : Art thou a councillor sage, that thou 
Presum'st to give advice ? A craven thou, 
Afraid to face the foe in battle ! I've filled 
Thy gluttonous maw with flesh and flowing wine : 
Now close complete thy drowsy, falling lids 
• . And go to sleep ! Vibhishan's gone before : 

Follow thou him and fall at the feet of men 
And hunch-backed monkeys all. Such glory well 
Becomes Vibhishana thy brother and thee ! ' 
He said, and turning to the waiting heralds 
Burst forth, ' Bring now my chariot, and send 
This challenge out by beat of drum : let earth 
And heaven combine in aid of Ram ; I am 
Prepared to meet them on the gory field ! ' 2 

So saying, Havana stood up and made ready to start for the 
field, but Kumbhakarna stopped him. And taking his mighty 
trident in his hand, he fell at his brother's feet and thus spoke 
to him : 

' Forgive me, my brother, I go : but I hope not 

For victory against the Men. 'Tis fate 

That drives me on. This day will be my last 

Upon the earth. But brother, at least when I'm 

No more, release the human damsel fair. 

I see no other way.' 3 

As he is thus speaking, a prophetic vision comes on him and 
he continues, 

l VT xv 79, 83-89. 2 VI xv 90-93. 3 VI xv 94. 


' Our Indrajit, I see, will fall by dart 

Of Lakshman, brother of Ram. And all that him 

Survive, behold they're scattered like the dust 

Against the angry storm. If me they beat, 

My brother, 'tis certain they will vanquish thee. 

'Tis only fools repent when all is lost : 

Be wise in time and send her back to Ram. 

And Dharma also points that way. 

If from 
Our childhood up to now, my king, I have 
Ever offended thee, I pray to thee 
With folded hands, forgive thy erring brother ! 
My heart doth tell me, brother, this meeting is 
Our last. These eyes, alas, will look no more 
Upon thy dear face ! I take thy leave.' 1 

He left the presence followed by the tear-filled eyes of 
Havana and those about him. He then ascended his car and 
marched at the head of a vast army. Rama saw his colossal form 
from far away, and, amazed, asked Vibhishana who and what he 
was. After saying that he was his own elder brother and that 
he was the terror of the gods, Vibhishana added that he had like 
himself advised Ravana to send back Sita, but that, though Ravana 
had refused to listen to his advice, he had decided to fight and 
perish on the field. Sugriva, who was by, suggested now that 
they should try to separate him from Ravana and win him over 
to their side. Rama agreed, and as they were thinking as to who 
was the fit person to approach him, Vibhishana offered to go 

The whole of this scene between Kumbhakarna and! 
Vibhishana is Kamban's own invention, and he has worked it up 
grandly. He brings out beautifully the contrast between loyalty 
to a losing cause and loyalty to Dharma but which is coupled 
with disloyalty to one's king and brother. 

Vibhishana passed the pickets of the Rakshasa army and sent 
word to his brother that he was come to see him. Kumbhakarna, 
while he was sorry, unknowing his purpose, that Vibhishana had 
left Rama's camp, was yet delighted to have the opportunity of 
casting a last look upon his brother, and ordered him to be brought 
before him. Vibhishana came in and saluted his brother by falling 
at his feet. 

J VI xv 86-98. 


He lifted up the brother that clasped his feet, 
And folding him unto his breast, he thus 
Addressed him : ' I was glad to learn, my brother, 
That thou hadst left our doomed camp and ta'en 
Refuge with Ram. Why leav'st thou now his side, 
Thou innocent, and come to us that rush 
Headlong into the jaws of death ? Wilt thou 
Exchange thy nectar for our poison black ? 
Although our glory's sun is set for ever, 
I thought Pulastya's 1 race would be redeemed 
By thee, and I was glad. But thou hast dried 
My lips and broke my heart by thy return. 
Thou hast thrown thyself at their feet who are 
The props of Dharm, and they will never give 
Thee up, e'en when it means their death. Thou'rt freed 
From curse of death so long as men praise Ram, 
And thou hast 'scaped the curse of Rakshas birth : 
What further craving then does bring thee here ? 
By serving th' One Supreme with all thy soul 
Thou hast the blessing gained of holy life 
And pure : wilt thou yet look on us as kin 
Who hanker after others' wives ? Great Brahm 
Has blessed thee with a righteous heart, my child, 
And wisdom unsurpassed ; while Rama's word 
Has given e'erlasting life. And still thou'rt here : 
I fear they have not cured the cravings low 

Of thy Rakshas birth ! 

If thou do spurn the shelter he has given 

And cast thy lot with us, pray tell me, brother, 

When all the Rakshas race is swept from off 

The face of th' earth by Rama's furious darts, 

Who will be there to offer sacrifice 

To our Manes ? Go back, therefore, to Raghava 

And enter Lanka after it is purged 

Of all this sinful crew ; and, crowned by Ram 

Enjoy a reign of glory unsurpassed.' 2 

Vibhishana heard to the end and told his brother the purpose 
of his visit in these words : 

' The grand-souled hero who his mercy sweet. 

i One of the mind-born sons of Brahma, and the first ancestor of 
Havana and his brothers. 
3 VI xv 130-135, 137, 138. 


Has showered on me unworthy, will accept 

Thy homage too, if thou wilt come to him, 

And save thee from the cycle of birth and death. 

The crown that he has offered me, I'll place 

At thy feet, and serve thee as my king and lord, 

For thou art elder born. Thou wilt not hear : 

But death is certain if thou stand against 

Rama. When he his naming shafts does send, 

Canst thou escape ? And whither canst thou fly ? 

Throw not, therefore, thy life away, my brother, 

But base thy ways upon the eternal Ved. 

The righteous care not whe'r 'tis father, mother, 
Or child, but cut themselves away, if these 
Persist in mortal sin 

For crime of one, shall we that know no guilt 
Ruin ourselves by fighting on his side ? 
And holy Parashuram, did he not kill 
His very mother for her sin ? Ev'n Shiv 
Cut off great Brahma's head when he from right 
Did swerve : thou'rt wise, learn thou upon them. Shall we 
Support a heinous crime and choose the way 
That leads to hell ? The flesh diseased that grows 
Upon our body we cut off and burn 
If we would keep the body whole : do ever 
The wise mix paste of sandalwood to change 
The stench of ocean stream ? 

Thou can'st not hope to save thy brother now. 
And ev'n if fight'st with all thy former strength 
What would it all avail ? Thou mayest throw 
Thy life away : thou mayest matter give 
For vassal gods to mock : but in the end 
Will aught but Hell receive thy parted soul ? 

Though great thy valour, thou hast not tasted joys 
Of sovereign power, but wasted all thy youth 
And manhood in unbecoming sleep. And now 
Desirest thou to fight for sin, and waste 
Thy life itself ? O brother, follow me : 
The time itself is ripe ; and blessed by Ram 
Conquer thy sleep and gain eternal life 
And sovereignty which is thy right. 

Thou thinkest it disgrace to owe thy crown 
To Ram. But know that He is God of gods 


Himself, Who's born as man to 'stablish Dharm. . . . 

If thou would come to Rama thou would earn 
The friendship of the gods and blessings choice 
Of Rishis ; and none would dare to injure thee. 
And joy would come to thee that knows no end. 
Tis he that in the fulness of his love 
And mercy sent me here. Do e'er the wise 
Go gathering flowers when fruits hang ripe upon 
The tree ? Abandon thou therefore the camp 
Of Sin and follow me.' l 

So saying, Vibhishana again fell at Kumbhakarna's feet. 
The great heart of Kumbhakarna was touched, but the resolution 
of his mind was not shaken. So, taking up his brother and 
embracing him once again, he thus spoke to him while tears 
flowed down freely from his sable cheeks: 

' Can I refuse to give my life for him 

Who all these years has cherished me, and now 

Has sent me to the field to fight ? Is life 

So dear, that's transient as the wavelets playing 

On the flowing stream ? So if thou want'st to heal 

My sorrow, brother, tarry not, but do 

Return to Ram. By great devotion thou 

Has't got from Brahm the blessing of a heart 

i That's free from thoughts of sin : the crown therefore 

Of all the worlds doth well befit thy head. 
But I'm a sinner born, and Fate is just 
That dooms me to death ; — and it will crown 
My head with glory's light, my sole delight. 

When kings do swerve from virtue, 'tis but right 

'■ To chide and try to turn their hearts from sin. 

But if they would not hear, can those who have 
Their bounties tasted see their masters run 
To ruin, unmoved ? No, when the enemies press, 
They'll gird their swords, and seek their fate upon 
The field before he falls foredoomed. When Ram 
Does aim his fatal darts, and Ravan falls 
Embracing the earth ; surrounded by his kin 
And loyal troops, shall he a brother lack 
To fall with him, — he who the worlds and gods 

1 VI xv 139-142, 144-150, 152, 153. 


Without a rival ruled ? And when his arms 
That lilted sheer the rock of Shiv are tied 
With cruel cords by messengers of Death, 
Shall he with downcast eyes approach the throne 
Of Yam, his vassal e'en today, without 
A brother by his side ? 

And can I brook — 
Ev'n I who have defeated the God of Death 
Himself — can I consent to pass my days, 
Singing with an aching heart the praise of him 
Who will have pierced my brother's mighty chest ? . . 

So tarry not, my child ; and if thou have 
Regard for me, or love, return to Ram, 
Abide with him. Think not I can be turned 
From my resolve by further words. Now go : 
And when w're dead, (this is my dying prayer) 
Do soothe our Manes with Vedic rites, and save 
Us from the gates of hell. Weep not, my brother 
When time doth smile on us, all things we touch 
Are turned to gold : but when the tide has fled 
Despite our every care we rush to ruin, 
Helpless. What can I tell thee more whose eyes 
See straight and clear ? So do not pity us 
Nor waste thy tears, but go from hence in peace. ' % 

He ended, and embracing Vibhishana once again he said with' 
tears flowing down his cheeks unchecked, 

' This day doth break for ev'r the tie that bound 
Us from our childhood's days ! ' 2 

Vibhishana's tongue was parched. Tears filled his eyes and 
his heart was big with unspeakable grief. But as Kumbhakarna 
was firm in his resolve, he saw that he could not do anything 
more to change his mind, and so he fell at his feet once again 
and without a word turned back his step towards Rama's camp. 
All the Rakshasa soldiers at every step joined their hands in 
Worship as he passed by. 

Kumbhakarna was glad that he went back, but the actual 
fact of separation broke his heart, and his eyes rained blood, the 
very fountains of his tears being dried up ! 

1 VI xv 155-160, 164. 2 VI xv 167. 


But soon he recovers his poise and the fight begins. The 
fight is described in the best style of Kamban but we shall not 
describe it elaborately as we have to claim the attention of the 
reader for many more single combats and battle-pieces yet. Still 
we do not desire to deprive him of the enjoyment of some of 
the great challenges of the heroes with which this canto abounds. 
And so we shall describe this battle as briefly as possible. 

After the common Vanaras and Rakshasas had fallen on either 
side, and Nila the commander-in-chief of the Vanara forces had 
been knocked down by Kumbhakarna with the left-hand — he did 
not aim his trident against him because the Vanara was unarmed 
— Angada, the son of Vali, came to the attack. He took up a 
mighty rock and hurled it with force against the Rakshasa to the 
amazement of the gods who cried, ' The end of Ravana's brother 
is come ! ' But Kumbhakarna received it on his adamantine 
shoulders, and the rock broke into a thousand fragments. The 
Vanaras who saw the strength of the Rakshasa by this proof fled 
in terror. But Angada stood his ground and caught by the hand 
the huge mace that his foe threw at him, while the Devas blessed 
him and admired his strength and skill. With the same mace in 
his hand he sprang upon the chariot of Kumbhakarna, intending 
to pound him to death with it. But Kumbhakarna eyed him in 
wrath, and asked him : 

' Art thou the king of Vanaras flocked from far 
To leave their bones to whiten on our coast ? 
Or may'st thou be his son ? Or art thou he 
Who burned our city fair and triumphed o'er 
Our heroes bold ? Declare at once.' 1 

Angada replied : 

' Know me to be the son of him who caught 
Thy brother with his vice-like tail, and flew 
Lightly to th' oceans four to worship Shiv, 
The while thy brother breathless struggled against 
His strangling hold. Behold I'm come to end 
Thee here ; and what my father to thy brother 
Did, I propose to do to thee : for I 
Shall lift thy carcass with my coiling tail 
And place it reeking at my Rama's feet.' 2 

i VI xv 191. 2 VI xv 192. 



And then, 

' Thy thought is just,' said laughing Kumbhakarn, 

' For verily the world will laugh at thee 

If thou fight not for him who from a cover 

Concealed did kill thy parent innocent 

With a single dart. Now that thou fight'st his wars — 

For Thy father's foe — the chivalry of the world 

Will sure acclaim thee bravest of the brave ! 

But I believe thou speakest not the truth : 

Thou canst not even dream of touching me. 

Much less wouldst hope to fly with me to Ram. 

I fancy 'tis thy wish to taste the point 

Of my fell trident that has in the past 

The front of Devas oft pierced, and fall 

Supine, thy hands and feet upthrowing wild 

E'en like thy tail ! ' 1 

Angada did not care to reply, but struck a thundering blow 
upon the rock-like body of Kumbhakarna with the captured mace. 
But the mace broke into a hundred fragments, and the Rakshasa 
stood unmoved as if nothing had happened. Angada now aimed 
a blow with his fist, but his enemy guarded himself and knocked 
him down senseless with his own fist. Angada was removed from 
the field by his friends, but Hanuman appeared on the scene just 
at that minute. He lifted up a massive rock and aimed it against 
Kumbhakarna's head. But Kumbhakarna caught it in his hands 
and sent the same with force against Hanuman. The rock broke 
into fragments when it struck the chest of Hanuman, giving out 
sparks like the iron hammered on the blacksmith's anvil. Hanuman 
now uprooted another and heavier rock and, poising it in his 
hand, addressed his enemy thus : 

' This rock I hurl at thee : if from its shock 
Thou canst escape alive, the world will count 
Thy might invincible, and I shall deem 
Myself defeated at thy hands, and face 
Thee not again in battle ; and great will be 
Thy fame on earth.' 2 

1 VI xv 193, 184. ■'■ 2 VI xv 200. 


Kumbhakarna laughed and thus replied : 

' What speakest thou of shock and life and death ? 
I tell thee this : I'll let it strike my frame : 
If when it strikes I move from where I stand 
The breadth of a single hair, I shall admit 
Defeat, and own myself, a weaker, wight 
Than thee ! ' 1 

Hanuman now threw his rock, but Kumbhakarna did not 
move. He received it on his mighty shoulder and, behold, it 
oroke into fragments to the terror of all the worlds. Hanuman 
kept his word, and went away crestfallen. 

The reader will remember that Lakshmana now fought with 
the Rakshasa and broke his bow and chariot and that the 
reinforcements sent by Ravana separated them. In the melee, 
Kumbhakarna found himself opposed by Sugriva, whom he soon 
overpowered and caught in his arms. He looked upon his capture 
as very lucky, as the Vanara host would lose heart if he could 
remove him from the field altogether. So he hurried towards 
the fort carrying Sugriva, who had already swooned in his hands. 
Hanuman followed hesitating to fight, as he respected his own 
word that he would not fight with him again. But Rama had 
already been apprised of Sugriva's plight, and bow in hand he" 
came to the rescue of his friend and built an impassable wall, 
solely with his fast-flying arrows, across the path of the Rakshasa. 
Unable now to move forward, the latter now turned round and 
seeing Rama challenged him thus : 

' Think'st thou I am Kavandh, or Vali the ape 
Who lived on flowers, that thou dost dare to cross 
My path and hope to throw me down ? Com'st thou 
To free Sugriv ? I scorn to fight thy brother 
Or Hanuman or Vali's son : for where's 
The glory in defeating them ? I searched 
For thee all o'er the field, but nowhere wert 
Thou found : thy forces fled, thy brother deemed 
It wise to seek some other foes ; while son 
Of Vayu lost his gauge and slunk away. 
Sugriva came my way, and lo, I have 

J VI xv 201. 


Him in my arms a prisoner tight. I thank 

The luck that brought thee here. I mean to send 

Thee to the doom that others of our foes 

Have found before, and free my brother's heart 

Of all anxiety. What more of words ? 

I challenge thee in sight of gods to loose 

My iron hold and free this luckless ape 

By force of thy much bepraised darts. If canst, 

I shall agree that Sita too will be 

Freed from her bowery prison.' 1 

Rama laughed and thus replied : 

' If I cannot cleave in two 

Those arms that captured have my friend and brother, 
I shall hold myself beaten : I shall fight 
No more with thee.' 2 

So saying he sent two arrows which wounded the Rakshasa 
in his forehead. Blood gushed from his wounds as water from 
mountain springs, and Kumbhakarna fell unconscious. The touch 
of warm blood awakened Sugriva from his swoon, and he released 
himself from the slackened arms of Kumbhakarna ; and like the 
monkey that he was, he bit his nose and ears and sprang back 
to where Rama was. The pain brought Kumbhakarna back to 
consciousness, and bitten with shame and roused to wrath he took 
his sword and buckler and rushed against Rama and the Vanara 
troops. The Vanaras died or fled in thousands. Rama disarmed 
him with his arrows but soon reinforcements came and the battle 
was prolonged. The Rakshasa host, however, was like stubble 
before the fire of Rama's darts, and soon Rama was again face 
to face with Kumbhakarna and asked whether he would now at 
least submit and join him, or whether he would flee towards 
Lanka. Though a little disfigured by fancy, and a little wanting 
in taste in some portions, the spirit of the reply of Kumbhakarna 
is grand and proud. He said : 

' It needs not that I speak of other things : 
But can I care to live with disfigured face 
E'en like my sister, whom thy brother and thou 
Attacked and maimed when she had none 

1 VI xv 281-285. 2 VI xv 286. 



To help ? . . . The haughty eyes of gods lay quenched 

For ages by our arms : that this might last 

For ev'r, I prayed my brother to release 

Sita, thy spouse : unheeded in the council 

Of the wise, my tongue and voice were quenched 

For once and all, but this I bore though grief 

Did eat my heart. But can I now endure 

My life, and shall I seek my death t' escape 

When quenched is my nose by feeble foes ? 

Thou counsel'st flight : but having ta'en the field 

For to drink thy blood, and let my brother win 

The fair he loves, now shall I move the gods 

To laughter by lamentations loud addressed 

E'en like my sister to my brother ? Although 

Thou art the peerless one, unique in all 

The worlds, art not a knight immaculate 

By instinct come of human birth ? Know'st not 

The duties of the knight, whate'er his race 

Or clime ? Then tell me have I other course 

Than fall on thee and take thy head from off 

Thy trunk ? ' 1 

So saying he sent a massive rock whirling against Rama but 
Rama's arrows proved the stronger. Realising now that he could 
not prevail against Rama, Kumbhakarna thought that the best way 
in which he could serve the cause of his brother was to destroy 
as many Vanaras as possible, and so he hurled shields and maces 
against the Vanaras and killed them by the thousand. But his 
time was come, and Rama, after tearing down his armour, sent a 
powerful arrow which brought down his right arm. Says 
Kamban : 

Were heroes ever born like him ? He took 

His brawny right arm severed in his left, 

And roaring like an angry lion, he dashed 

Into the Vanar host and felled them down 

In heaps. The Vanars fled : the peopled worlds 

Now dreading more the severed arm than that 

Which yet remained, exclaimed, ' Though Ram doth stand 

With Kodand bent, can our Vanar champions bold 

Escape their fearful fate today ? ' 2 

-*- VI xv 328-331. 2 VI xv 341, 342. 


The Vanaras were flying for very lif e : the river of blood 
that was freely flowing from Kumbhakarna's colossal body floated: 
with many a carcass down to the sea : the amazed gods fled in, 
terror of his fury : but he rushed upon Rama with a force that 
threw down many a mansion and many a hill and sent back the 
sea for many a mile. But Rama coolly bent his bow and struck 
down his other arm also. Kumbhakarna, however, did not fall 
down or cease his struggle even then. With his feet he kicked 
and trampled and crushed down yet more thousands of the Vanara 
army. Soon another arrow flew from the bow-strings of Rama 
and cut off one of his feet. 

But even then, with the remaining leg he leaped about and 
sent the Vanaras to their doom ! The remaining leg also was 
severed by the darts of Rama, but with his tongue the Rakshasa 
lifted up the massive rocks that were lying on the field and blew 
them all with all his might against the enemy and killed many of 
the Vanaras. Rama was struck with his inexhaustible strength 
and resource and devotion to his brother. But this feat was the 
last flicker of the dying forest-fire — the last rumbling of the dying.. 
volcano. Even his might was sinking and he lamented thus about 
the impending fate of his brother : 

' A thousand Ravan's ev'n cannot suffice 
To stand against my Lord and win : and here 
I lie, an armless, legless trunk, and see 
No way to further aid my brother. A life 
Of endless joy and luxury was his : 
Alas, I see its end approach, brought on 
By lust unholy.' * 

Kumbhakarna's life of Rajasic activity was now over. The 
ineffable light of Sattva now lighted up his soul. With the advent 
of this light his habitual affection for Ravana sloughed off his 
mind and he addressed Rama in these words : 

' Thou comest of the race of him, my Lord, 
Who weighed his flesh to save a luckless dove : 
Wouldst thou refuse a dying prayer ? My brother 
Who has found refuge from our ev'l with thee, 
May he, O Ram, for ever be thy care ! 
Though he is Rakshas born, his heart knows not. 
Th' iniquity of Rakshas birth. He has 
Now come to thee who art the Ancient One 

i VI xv 354. ' 


Disguised in princely weeds : I pray thee once 

Again, protect him first and last. For Ravan 

Who hopes yet to prevail 'gainst thee, does hate 

Vibhishan as a traitor black, and will 

Attempt to end him though a brother born. 

See, therefore, that Vibhishan does not leave 

The side of Lakshmana or Hanuman, 

Or thy protective wings. Now for myself 

I'll make a last request to thee. Let not 

The Rishis and the gods deride me, Sire, 

For my face deformed : so shoot thy powerful dart 

Clean through my neck, and send my severed head 

To sink beneath the sea beyond the ken 

Of living kind.' * 

Rama took pity on him and complied with his wish. With 
one arrow he brought down his head and with another having 
the force of a thunder-storm, he sent that hill-huge head flying 
through the air to sink into the ocean. 

So ended the mighty Kumbhakarna. Instead of remaining 
very little more than a sleepy and gluttonous giant as Valmiki has 
left him, the mighty Rakshasa has become in the hands of Kamban 
a seer and a Bhakta, a tender-hearted brother, and a stern pursuer 
of duty. He reminds us of Bhishma and Kama in Indian story, 
and Hector of the Homeric Epic. He sees that his king and 
brother is fighting for injustice, and that Dharma is on the side 
of the enemy. In the natural conflict of duties that arises in this 
situation, he chooses to be true to the salt he had eaten. He 
foresees his fate, but will not flinch from it, though he knows, 
and his brother Vibhishana has shown, that he can save himself. 
He finds that he cannot ' refuse to give his life for him who all 
these years has cherished ' him, ' and now has sent him to the field 
to fight.' He cannot let Ravana, after having enjoyed prosperity 
that even the Devas envied, lack a brother to fall with him upon 
the field of battle. And above all, he cannot brook the idea of 
singing hallelujah to one who must kill his brother — though that 
one should be God Himself incarnate. In the end, when he dies, 
we hear the soft lyre of friendship and brotherly love mingling 
its strains with the trumpet of battle, and we love him both for 
his devotion to Ravana and for his affection and tenderness for 

1 VI xv 356-360. 



Thfe episode of Hiranyakashipu is one of the few additions 
that Kamban has contributed to the story of the Ramayana. 1 His 
epic imagination was so filled with the colossal figures of the 
great Asura and his destroyer the Man-Lion, that he has alluded 
to them more than a dozen times in his grand similes. But he 
was not satisfied with these slight references and allusions, and 
wanted to describe the world-bestriding Asura and the Avatar 
that destroyed him in greater detail. And with his finely intuitive 
cultivated taste with regard to everything concerning the 
Architectonics of Poetry, he has placed this episode in the place 
that is most fitted for it. For what place would be more natural 
and more fitting for this episode than the speech of Vibhishana 
in the war- council in which he attempts to advise his brother to 
make peace with Rama ? Here was an Asura endowed with far 
greater strength and enjoying greater power than Ravana, and 
yet he was destroyed by an Avatar of Narayana who was now 
incarnated again as Rama to destroy the evil ones of this 

i Indian readers of this book will, we are certain, feel proud to learn 
that far-off Paris, who, like Sita in Ravana's isle, had kept her soul and 
honour untarnished throughout Hitler's occupation, has so rapidly stepped 
back into her unchallenged position of the Queen of Culture that once 
again ambassador's of culture from all parts of the world are crowding 
into her court. There, in Paris, is published an excellent quarterly 
magazine, hind, devoted purely to the rich and varied culture of Bharata- 
Khanda called India. Monsieur S. KICHENASSAMY (Sakti Sei.) has 
contributed to the second issue of the first volume a learned article on 
Le Ramayana de Kamban — the Kamba Ramayana — from which we quote 
certain sentiments here and elsewhere which accord so perfectly with 
those of Aiyar in the pages of this book. He says : 
" Etant donne egalement que le sujet m'a eti pose en ces termes : lc 
Ramayana de KambaN, je m'efforcerai surtout d'opposer l'ceuvre tamoule a 
l'ceuvre sanskrice ; cela me permettra d'elucider un point tres important : la 
valeur morale de l'oeuvre de KambaN." 

Writing with special reference to the chapter on Hiranyakashipu, 
he voices Aiyar's — nay, the entire Tamil world's — pride when he says : 

"Iranyappadalam " la chute inevitable du puissant Iranya devant la foi 
inebranlable de son fils Prahalada. Ce chapitte inconnu chez Valmiki est 
une creation stupefiante d'art et de genie : l'on eut consent! a predre tout le 
Ramayana mais pas ce chapitre, car il couionne la plus belle pattie de 
l'ceuvre de KambaN, le Yudda Kandam. " — (P) 


generation. Should not Ravana learn a lesson from the fate of 
Hiranya ? 

This story is grandly described in the Seventh Skandha of 
the Bhagavata Purana and is a great favourite with all Bhaktas. 
But Kamban as usual would not follow his original in all its 
details, but would only retell the story in his own way, giving 
his own touches, so that the story becomes as much his own as 
it is Shuka's 1 . 

We must say that- his description of Hiranya's physical 
proportions is marred by hyperbolic details of the worst type 
which defeat their own purpose ; for they do not succeed in making 
an adequate and satisfying aesthetic impression on the mind. He 
.says : 

The seven oceans of the universe, whose depths it is 
impossible to sound even with the joined trunks of two of 
the great mammoths that support the universe, would only 
wet the feet of the great Asura when he walked in them. 
Where could he bathe ? The waters of the rivers were too 
little for his colossal body : the waters of the seas were too 
bitter : the waters from the clouds he would not touch, for 
they were warm : he would therefore pierce the vault of the 
sky and bathe in the showers descending from the waters 
of the universe beyond. The hills of the rising and setting 
sun were the jewels in his ear-rings. He tried the Mandhara 
mountain with which the Devas and the Asuras had churned 
the Ocean of Milk to see if he could use it for a walking staff, 
but finding it too light for him he threw it away. 

He had the combined force of all the five elements of 
creation. He would rule the sun and the moon. He would 
depute in his whim the god of one element to perform the 
functions of another. Drunk with power and pride, sometimes 
he would take the reins out of the hands of Vayu and rule 
the winds and storms ; sometimes he would usurp the 
functions of Varuna and direct the movements of the oceans ; 
at other times he would do the work of Indra or Agni, Yama 
or Nairruti, and even that of Ishana. 2 At every tread of 
his, the heads would be crushed of the thousand-headed 

i In Vyasa's Bhagavata, the stories are always put into the mouth of 
•Shuka who tells the stories to king Parikshit. 

2 Indra, Agni, Yama, Nairruti, Varuna, Vayu, Kuber and Ishana are 
the respective guardian deities of East and the rest of the eight cardinal 


Adishesha — the primeval Cobra that bears the earth on his- 
shoulders. When he walked, his crown would graze the vault 
of the sky. The very elements would dissolve and fly away 
when he strode along. 

He ruled not this universe only that we see about us. 
The universe beyond also acknowledged his sovereignty and 
only his. Devas and Yogis, Rishis and even the Supreme 
Three — all were his vassals, and would live only by praising 
and blessing his name. By intense tapas he had obtained 
this awful power, and the blessing that nothing that could 
even be conceived by the mind should be able to kill him. 
He had placed his throne on the Meru mountain itself, and 
from that centre he was ruling tyrannically over the 
universes without a second or a rival. 

Many ages passed thus and at length a child was born to 
him whom he named Prahlada. While Prahlada was still in 
the womb, Narada the great Bhakta had taught his mother 
the truth that Narayana was the one supreme God and that 
love to Him was the only true salvation here and hereafter. 
The conscious child had stored the teaching in his heart, and 
from the moment of his birth he became a Bhakta — a devotee 
of the Supreme One. He grew in love and devotion, and 
in his fifth year he was sent by his father to study under 
the royal guru. 1 

The guru began the teaching by asking the boy to pronounce- 
the words ' Worship to Hiranya ', for the tyrant in the pride 
of his heart had ordained that these words should be 
substituted for the words ' Worship to the One Supreme God 
Narayana ', with which words alone all studies had always been 
begun before his time. But the child of wisdom closed his 
eyes, and with tears of joy flowing down his cheeks cried 
out, ' Aum namo Narayanaya' — Worship to the Supreme God 
Narayana. How could the cringing master tolerate such, 
sedition ? These words fell like thunder upon his ears, and 
he cried out : 

' Thou hast brought ruin on me, O sinful wretch ! ' Is 
not the thought of self and the preservation of their own 
position safe from the wrath of the tyrant the primary 
thought and concern of all slave-minded teachers of all ages- 
and climes ? Our guru then continued, 

1 Preceptor. 


*And thou hast dug a grave for thy own self. 
And where is it didst learn to despise words 
That e'en the gods repeat with loyalty 
And love, and to pronounce those cursed words 
That thou didst utter even now ? ' * 

Prahlada replied, 

' I uttered but the name of Him who is 
The root wherefrom all Vedas spring. Wherein, 
O master, have I sinned ? The name pronounced 
Hath brought salvation to myself and thee 
And even to my father and king.' 2 

The master trembled, and conjured the boy to begin with 
blessing his father's name. He said, 

' Thy father, boy, is the sovereign liege of all : 
And ev'n th' ancient one who made the gods 
His homages pays to him. Thou must begin 
Therefore thy studies with the holy name 
Of Hiranya on thy lips. Art wiser than 
Thy master ? Ruin me not therefore, my boy, 
By uttering once again the name that now 
Thou utteredest ! ' 3 

The child could not tolerate this blasphemy, and proclaimed: 
thus his faith : 

' I'll honour nought, my master, but the name 
Of the Lord Supreme. He has illumed my mind 
And ta'en possession of my heart : when He 
The Infinite One thus dwells in me, can aught 
Be hid from me ? If such there be, I'll learn 
From thee, so it is not opposed to truth. 
Who else is worthy worship but the One 
Whose praises fill the Brahman's' Ved, whose name 
The knowing ones and sages, even gods 
Repeat t' escape the bonds of birth ? I stand 
Upon the rock to which the Vedas lead, 

1 VI Ui 24. 2 VI iii 25. 3 VI iii 26. 


And jnan 1 and sacrifice. What more is there 

For me to know or learn ? That bliss is mine 

That's earned by those who meditate in caves 

And forests, solitary, careless how 

They eat or drink or dress. For what shall I 

Endeavour more ? Behold the men who serve 

With loving heart the servants e'en of Him 

Who measured with His feet the universe. 

Though they should learning lack, their lumined soul 

Can pierce the secrets of the Ved ; and from 

Their honeyed lips would flow ambrosial verse ! 

Now He has filled my heart, who is my Lord 

And also thine, and Lord of all the worlds 

And even of Brahma's self : all knowledge, sire, 

Is therefore come to me : and for thee too, 

master mine, this is the highest good : 

1 pray thee, bow to Him ! ' 2 

The Brahman master trembled with the thought that Hiranya 
would attribute all these ' seditious ' doctrines to his own teaching 
and put him to death. So he rushed to the Asura's presence 
like a scared man and thus addressed him with many a bow : 

' Thy humble servant prays to thee, my lord, 
Give ear : thy son has uttered words that I 
Cannot pronounce, e'en conceive in thought 
Without endangering all my hope of earth 
And heaven ! And he has refused to read the Ved, 
Saying he knows all that there is to know.' 3 

Hiranya could not understand what the teacher meant, and 
asked him to repeat the words uttered by his son. But the 
terrified guru only mystified him still further by saying, 

' If I those words before thee utter, lord, 
Words mortal to the ear to hear as venom 
Of cobras to the blood, my sinful tongue 
Would sure to ashes burn, and the pit of Hell 
Would open wide its mouth for me.' 4 

1 Wisdom. 2 VI Hi 27-33. 

3 VI iii 35. 4 VI iii 37. 


Hiranya therefore ordered his son to be brought before him, 
and when Prahlada stood before him saluting, he embraced him 
with tenderness and love and asked him what he had said to 
provoke the teacher to anger. Prahlada told him, 

' I only took the holy name of Him 

Of Whom the Vedas witness bore when first 

Was heard their sacred sound : and thereunto 

I only added this : whoso shall think 

Or speak or hear of Him, shall cross the sea 

Of misery, and higher good than this 

There's none in all the world.' J 

The words used by the poet to convey the idea contained 
in the first three verses of Prahlada's reply could also be 
interpreted to mean, 

I only took the holy name of Him 

Who stands without a rival, with which name 

The great begin the chanting of Ved ; 

and so Hiranya thought that there was nothing in his son's words 
for the Brahman to disapprove of. For it was with his name 
that, according to his ordinances, the chanting of the Vedas were 
being begun in those days. Yet, thinking that it was better to 
have it made clear, he asked Prahlada to pronounce the name 
itself. Then to his great and rising indignation he heard these 
bold words which his saintly son spoke : 

' Wouldst hear the words that fill all worldly wants ? 

Wouldst hear the words that ope the gates of heaven ? 

Wouldst hear the words that give to sacrifice 

Its virtue and the power to grant our wish ? 

List then, they're Aum Namo Narayanaya — 

I bow my head to Narayana, the Lord 


Whe'r Brahma, Shiv, or man whoso forgets 

This mantra has forgot his soul. 'Tis hard 

To prove by signs ; for they alone can know 

Whose eyes see whole, whose heart is free from likes 

i VI iii 40. 


And dislikes both. This mantra is the boat 
That saves us from the eddying whirls of life, 
And death, and endless pursuing deeds. It is 
A jewel dear to all — the cream of all 
There is to know in Ved. And so it is 
These words I uttered loud, my father, that 
Thou may'st be saved, and I, and all the world 
With us.' 1 

The amazed Asura could hold his patience no longer and 
.thus burst out : 

' This sceptre stern, my boy, beneath whose sway 
All worlds have lain in dread for ages past, 
Would straight have burned the tongue that spoke and 

That dared conceive these words seditious ! Now speak : 
Declare, and quick, which rebel uttered them, 
Or taught the same to thee ? The sages, seers, 
And gods that dwell in all the moving worlds 
Do worship nought but these my feet — their vows 
And prayers are e'er addressed alone to me, 
Their lord. Who told thee he is God, who oft 
Has come to try his strength with me, and who, 
As oft defeated, has in panic fled, 
Thanks to old Garuda's powerful wings, and now 
Lies fast asleep somewhere i' the Sea of Milk ? 
Innumerable as the ocean sands 
Are those our fathers who, before I came 
To sovereign power, had been destroyed by him : 
Can good e'er come to rats, perverse, if they 
Shall sing the praises of the hooded snake ? 
My brother, who could, if he did please, devour 
The fourteen worlds, this Vishnu gored to death, 
Coming on him in shape a boar. Did I 
Beget thee boy, to sing with joy the name 
Of him the enemy of our race, whose hands 
Are stained with our own blood ? Seest thou not me 
With power omnipotent endowed ? Whence didst 
Thou learn, thou luckless wretch, what sight denies 
And every other sense, that there is one 

i VI iii 44-46. 


Above us who creates, sustains, destroys ? 

There is no higher truth than this as Ved 

Itself will witness, that our actions yield 

Their proper fruit — the good deeds good, and ill 

Their ill appropriate. Vishnu, Brahma, Shiv, 

Who rose by their austerities to their 

Dominions in their proper worlds, have now 

By great efflux, of time their places lost ; 

And by my proper tapas I am raised 

To sovereign power unrivalled over all 

The worlds : success despaired, now none does wish 

T' endeavour after it, and all have sought 

Refuge from ill beneath my awesome throne ! 

I've banished from my realms all sacrifice, 

And tapas, and all hankering after knowledge 

Forbidden. Him whom these do falsely praise 

Thou dost declare almighty. Who know not 

Security themselves, can ev'r they save 

Others ? I pardon thee thy childhood's prattle : 

But cease henceforth such senseless talk, and learn 

In all humility, all that this sage 

Will in his wisdom teach.' 1 

Prahlada heard to the end with filial respect, though every 
word of his father's speech was a javelin to his heart. But when 
he had ended, he affirmed fearlessly, like Abdiel, the faith that 
was in his heart, and the truth as his intellect perceived it. 
He said, 

' The seed is the parent of the tree. . . Can we measure 
His greatness who createth all things within Himself, liveth 
Himself apart, and yet immanent shineth in all the work 
of His hands ? He hath none before Him, and none there 
is after Him. Deathless is He ! . . . 

The mind cannot conceive Him — for the Upanishads 

declare He is beyond the logical intellect. Words cannot 

describe His nature as He is, nor's there another to whom 

, or which we can compare Him. How then can those who 

sense Him not uncover His secret ? 

He is action and her fruit, and He is ordainer too 
thereof. Whoso will know His greatness in his heart, will 
cross the sea of good and evil. ... 

1 VI ili 47-56. 


The cause He is that produces, and He is the effect 
also that is produced : but there is no organon J by which 
thou canst know what He is in Himself. The many see not 
His wonderful magic. 

Behold, He is the scentless, seedless lotus, many-petalled 
and unique, blossoming on the stalk 2 studded with the fifty 
sounds — safely lying in the secret cave of all living kind 
from the Supreme Brahma downwards. . . . 

He came as the single sound undifferentiated, and then, 
evolved as sound triune, and then became the Word 3 . . . 

Time He is and Space. He is Cause and Instrument : 
He is Effect also and its Enjoyer ! Virtue He is and the- 
glories that virtue brings. And behold His Power, He 
contains all creation within Himself as the seed contains 
the banyan tree. 

He is the artist, and the world is His Vina. Within 
He is, and without, and yet nothing touches Him. And it is 
He that gives the Vedas. 

He is the life of the unique sound Aum. He is the 
Light of the Inner Light. . . . He is the Are and the worlds 
are the smoke. 

He is the garland, and the religions and sects are the 
flowers thereof. But He is beyond the grasp of the fanatics. 
For he is the Ocean, and the sectarians know only the wave. 
And yet He is in the wave also ! 

And as I feared, father, that thy vast power, and life 
itself, might vanish by thy contempt for the Supreme Lord, 
I sang His praises that thy days may be long and thy power 
may be lasting.' 4 

When Prahlada finished, Hiranya's rising rage burst into 
flame, throwing the very sun out of his sphere and the heavens 
out of their foundations. His eyes dropped blood. And, to the 
terror of all the worlds, he thundered out these words, fierce 
as the boiling poison of the sea : 

1 Instrument. < 

2 The stalk is the spinal cord. The lotus is the brain. The fifty 
primary sounds (letters) of the Samskrit alphabet are meditated on by 
yogis in the brain as well as in the different plexuses of the spinal cord. 

3 Nada — the mystic sound Aum. Also compare : 

" In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God;, 
and the Word was God." — The Gospel of St. John — I i. 
* VI iii 58, 59, 62, 64, 69, 70, 72, 74-78. 


' Have not I foe enough in him who's sprung 
To my misfortune out of my own loins, 
And pays his worship and his love to him 
Who is my foe of foes ? Put him to death ! ' 1 

The ministers of his vengeance rose at once and, taking 
Prahlada into the open, aimed their most deadly weapons against 
him. But all of them fell powerless to harm him who in the 
midst of that iron-storm forgot not the loving utterance of the 
name of the Lord. When Hiranya was informed of this, he 
ordered them to light a big fire and throw him into the flames. 
They obeyed him, but 

even as the words of the chaste Sita cooled the fire to 
Hanuman when we 2 set fire to his tail, even so did the 
repetition of the holy name make the Are feel cool to his 
fair body up to the very marrow of his bones. 3 

When the executioners told Hiranya that Are did not burn 
his son, he ordered them to throw the God of Fire into a dungeon 
and the boy into a pit containing the eight venomous cobras. 
The cobras were, therefore, set on Prahlada, but in whatever 
part of the body they bit him, drops of ambrosia exuded from 
the bitten flesh ; and it was the fangs of the cobras that fell 
off, while he remained scatheless, unforgetful of the holy name. 

Hiranya next ordered that an elephant should be driven 
against him and made to trample him under foot.. Indra himself, 
in fear, supplied his Airavata* and the elephant came rushing 
on him in fury. As he came within earshot Prahlada addressed 
him thus : 

' Remember, father Airavat, He dwells 
Within the lotus of my heart, who flew 
To save thy kinsman struggling in the jaws 
Of the fierce crocodile ! ' 5 

1 VI iii 80. 

2 Ravana and his minions — the reader will recollect that Vibhishana 
is relating the story. 

3 VI iii 86. 

4 The name of Indra's state elephant. 

5 VI iii 93. — Allusion to the story of Gajendra, the lord of elephants, 
who was saved by Vishnu when he called on His name. Vishnu hurled 
His discus against the crocodile who had seized the Elephant-king by the 
leg when he was bathing in a lake. The crocodile was killed and the 
Elephant was released. 



When Airavata heard these words, instead of knocking him 
down and trampling on him, he fell down on his knees and 
worshipped him. Hiranya ordered the elephant to be put to death 
for thus slighting his orders, and so in order to save himself he 
rose reluctantly and dashed against Prahlada. But lo, when the 
tusks but touched his golden body they broke to pieces and fell 
off even as if they were plantain stalks ! 

Hiranya then tried to drown Prahlada in the sea with a rock 
attached to his body, but the boy did not sink : he floated even 
as the Supreme One floats on the banyan leaf during the Great 
Deluge of the universe. Neither was the cup of poison that he 
gave him to drink able to kill Prahlada who drank it as if it were 
very amrit. 

As nothing else appeared to have power over the child, 
Hiranya at last determined to kill him with his own hands. As 
he neared him wild with rage, the divine child fell at his feet 
and softly said, 

' My life belongs to Him who made the worlds 
And all that is therein : how canst thou hope, 
My father, to destroy what's His ? n 

. We shall now continue the story in the words of the poet 
which rise henceforth from height to height of sublimity till the 
crescendo is reached in the last defiance of Hiranyakashipu. 

Hiranya heard ; but still, though full of wrath, 

He did not strike him, curious to see 

If young Prahlad could show his God ; and thus 

Addressed he him : ' Thou talkest much, my boy ; 

Tell me, if canst, who made the worlds ? Is it 

The three who live by praising loud my name ? 

Or else is it the Rishis ? Or is it 

The gods that have been crushed for once and all ? ' 

Prahlad replied : ' 'tis Hari, father, who 

Created all these worlds. Is it the worlds 

Alone He made ? 'Tis He that giveth life — 

Our very souls are His. Why, like the scent 

In flowers, and oil in ses'mum seed, He dwells 

Immanent everywhere. I adore, and so 

He shows Himself to me. Thou lovest not, 

1 VI iii 118. ■ ■ 


•Father, and hence thou seest not Him who killed 

Thy golden-eyed brother. Three are His forms, 

And three His qualities : His eyes are three, 

The sun and the moon and the fire. His worlds are three, 

And triune th' Effulgence of His Self. 

And He is the witness argus-eyed, Who sees 

Delighted, th' eternal dance of transient life. 

And this is the final truth that Vedas teach.' 

Jiiranya smiled contemptuous, and said, 

' Thou say'st, though himself only one, he dwells 

In every object seen in all this vast 

Multiple universe. We'll test this first 

And then decide what's best for us to do. 

Now show me him if he is in this pile ? ' 

' What of this column, father ? ' said Prahlad : 

' Thou'lt find Him in a span of space ; divide 

An atom int' an hundred parts, and thou 

Wilt find my God in every one of them : 

He is in Meru hill ; thy very words, 

I say, are filled with Him : and thou wilt find 

' Fore long my every word a solemn truth.' 

' Enough of words,' Hiranya spoke in wrath, 

' Discover me him inside this pillar here, 

Who, thou declar'st and rebel gods believe, 

Pervades this universe : if thou dost fail 

I'll fall on thee as on the elephant does 

The lion, and tearing thee to pieces, drink 

Thy blood and eat thy flesh ! ' The wise one thus 

Softly replied : ' Thou canst not kill me, Sire ! 

But this I vow : if at any spot at which 

Thou place thy hands, my blessed Lord do not 

Reveal Himself, I'll myself end my life ! 

For e'en when I address this solemn vow 

To Him, if He would not respond to my prayer, 

And even after that I cling to my life, 

I shouldn't deserve to see my God, for then 

My love could not be perfect.' ' Be it so ! ' 

Hiranya cried in wrath and with his arm, 

The home of victory, he struck against 

The massive column high a thundering blow. 


# . ' i 

He struck, and lo the heavens opened wide, 
The universal globe asunder burst, 
And rumbling came the laugh of the Man-Lion fierce,. 
Tremendous, ominous ! When Prahlada heard 
Him laugh Whom even Brahma seeks in vain, 
He danced for joy, his eyes with tears filled, 
He chanted loud His holy name, and hands 
In worship joined above his tender head. . . . 
Hiranya heard, and wild with rage exclaimed, 
' Say, who art thou that daredest laugh ? Art thou 
The god of whom this boy doth prate ? And hast 
Thou found thy ocean small and refuge sought, 
Thou despicable, within this pillar here ? 
Come forth if thou wouldst fight with me, Come forth ! ' 
The pillar burst, the Lion stood self-revealed ; 
He grew and filled this universe, and those 
Around, and who can know and tell of all 
His wondrous doings in the great Beyond ? 
The globed vault did burst, and from the depths 
Above to those below all space was torn 
Sheer ! 1 

Continues the poet : 

Have any the science to count the arms that the Man-Lion 
had ? The Asura force of ten thousand thousand millions 
was annihilated by Him, and His terrific form confronted 
every single Asura separately with one head and two arms 
and three fiery eyes. 

But can evil ever come to the good ? While He was 
tearing to pieces all the evil Asuras with His terrific claws, 
He protected all good souls from harm by keeping them within 
Himself even as a mother does her infant. 

He ate up alive the elephants and the horses and the 
fighting Asuras, and then drank up the oceans seven with all 
their myriad living beings, and crunched between His teeth 
the very thunderbolts of heaven. Seeing His unquenchable 
rage Dharma herself trembled for her safety ! 

Not one Asura he left alive in all the three worlds ! Not 
even the foetus in the wombs of the Asura women were 
spared ! And seeing no more Asuras alive in this universe^ 

1 VI iii 119-130. 


behold, some arms of His were searching for them in the 
worlds Beyond ! 

Thus before the mind could so much as realise what was 
"happening, the world-pervading Man-Lion destroyed all the 
Asuras excepting alone Prahlada who was the staff of the Gods, 
and his father ; now He strode towards the place where the great 
Asura was standing. 

And there he stood, vast like the Meru mount, 
His diamond-studded sword unsheathed for fight, 
His buckler hiding sheer the heavens from view. 
At his thundering shout the Devas shuddered, and 
The mountains trembled and the seven seas. 
Prahlada saw his dauntless father stand 
With firm-set lip prepared to meet the shock 
Of the advancing Lion, and nearing him 
He said, ' E'en after seeing the strength abnorm 
Of the Lord Supreme, O father, why wouldst not 
The truth perceive ? E'en now thou canst submit 
To Him : and when thou fallest at His feet, 
He would forgive thy evil deeds of old.' 
Hiranya frowned, and thus defiance hurled : 
' Listen, ingrate ! In sight of thee I will 
Cut down the Man-Lion's branching arms and feet, 
And then I'll give my sword thy blood to drink ! 
And when it shall have nobly done my hests, 
I'll pay my homage to that matchless steel. 
Hast ever seen this head obeisance make 
To living being ? Not e'en to soften heart 
Of woman has it ever yet bowed, thou boy ! ' 1 

So saying Hiranya laughed a mighty laugh. A shudder ran 
through the worlds when they heard the laugh which they had 
■ever known to be the forerunner to his terrible deeds of valour. 
As the Man-Lion approached him, Hiranya advanced to meet Him, 
and they closed, the Man-Lion with his uncountable arms and the 
Asura armed with 'his sword of victory. They rose above all the 
worlds into primeval space for freedom of movement ! And what 
•could we compare their forms to ? The Asura resembled that 
■vast Meru mountain, and the blessed Lord resembled — all else 

1 VI lii T44-146. 


besides. The Lord of Illusion, with his arms rising tier on tier 
looking like waves on waves, and with his world-quaking roar, 
resembled the Ocean of Milk when it was being churned, and the 
Asura resembled the mountain which churned it. 

But how long can a mortal hold against the Supreme Lord 
in his terrific form, and fighting hand to hand ? With one mighty 
hand, at length, the Man-Lion took hold of Hiranya's feet and 
whirled him round and round. His crown and jewels struck 
against the circular walls of the universe and fell shattered to 
pieces ; his ear-jewels called kundalas fell one to the east and the 
other to the west, and remain to this day as the rocks of the rising 
and the setting sun. And it is his jewels that give their brilliance 
to the sunrise and the sunset even now. At length, at the time 
of the twilight which is neither day nor night, the Man-Lion 
sat at the gate of Hiranya's palace, laid him on his thighs and 
tore open his entrails with his spear-like claws, and freed the 
Devas from their thraldom. 

Hiranyakashipu is the analogue of the Miltonic Satan in Indian, 
story. Although in the description of the physical form of the 
Asura Kamban falls below Milton, who with a few of his 
characteristic touches gives the impression of hugeness without 
offending the eye of imagination, Kamban has perfectly succeeded 
in impressing us with the supreme pride and consciousness of 
illimitable power of the great Asura. The gods were nothing to 
Hiranya. He alone was the undisputed master of the universe, 
and none deserved worship but himself. Even when he sees the- 
terrific Man-Lion destroy his army in a trice, his heart does not 
shrink ; on the contrary his words assume greater firmness and 
pride. And his end too is equally heroic, contending face to face 
with God, and requiring Omnipotence Itself to destroy him. 

The story of Hiranya in the Bhagavata is more didactic than 
artistic in composition and purpose, though some of the highest 
flights of poetry are to be found in it. But Kamban gifted as he 
is with a highly dramatic imagination, would introduce his own 
changes in it in order to bring the dramatic into full play. Thus, 
while Shuka, the narrator of the Bhagavata stories, makes Prahlada 
speak his mind for the first time before his father who is made 
to casually ask him what he had learned, Kamban makes him 
repeat the holy name of Narayana before his master at the very 
commencement of the instruction. This gives our poet the 
opportunity of making the teacher tremble for his safety at hearing 
the banned words, and of extracting the full poetic value out oft 


this circumstance. Again, according to the original, after this 
incident, the boy is sent away by the father, after a slight 
reprimand, to the masters to learn the proper doctrines. When, 
after sometime had elapsed, Hiranya calls for him and again 
questions him, Prahlada replies in the same strain, and in his 
wrath Hiranya orders him to be tortured and killed. Prahlada, 
however, as in our story, escapes miraculously from all the cruel 
tortures to which he is subjected. After this, at the request of the 
teachers, Hiranya again sends the boy to them to learn the 
orthodox doctrines. This is clearly against all poetic probability, 
for how could Hiranya or the teachers believe that Prahlada could 
be converted after all these cruelties and miraculous escapes ? 
There at the school, instead of being converted to his father's view 
of the universe, himself converts his classmates to the love of Hari. 
The teachers, therefore, bring him back to Hiranya saying that 
his conversion is hopeless. The last scene before the striking at 
the pillar too, is not so well developed by Shuka as by Kamban 
who brings out the contrast between the wrathful and proud 
Asura and his calm and devotion-filled son in a few but intensely 
worked up stanzas. Kamban again would make the Man-Lion 
finish the Asura army before coming to the leader Hiranyakashipu, 
and thus keep the climax to the very end. The challenge of 
Hiranya to the Man-Lion in Kamban is, again, more in character 
than the last words that Shuka puts into his mouth. The words 
that fall from the lips of Hiranya in the Bhagavata after the 
appearance of the Man-Lion are only these : 

" What ? Most probably this Hari, with his great 

cunning has assumed this powerful body with the intention 

of destroying me." 

And how feeble these words read when compared with the 
first challenge of the Asura in Kamban ! 

The last request of Kamban's Prahlada to his father to submit 
to the God makes him more loveable than Shuka's Prahlada who 
does not speak to his father after the Man-Lion had appeared ; 
while the last reply of Kamban's Hiranya to his son makes him 
look grander than the Asura in the Bhagavata. 

Potanna in his Prahlada Charitra, as perhaps everywhere in 
his grand redaction of the Bhagavata, has not made any changes 
in the story as told by Shuka. His version is a close paraphrase 
in Telugu of the original Bhagavata, expanding certain leading 
ideas and images in the narration, but ail-religiously keeping to 
the very order in the development of the story. He has added 


no new trait or colour to the original sketch. But Kamban's 
imperial imagination must needs remelt even the best minted coin 
of the other sovereigns in the realm of poetry, and put its own 
impress and superscription on the reminted gold. And so we have 
in this episode, Hiranya expanded to even more colossal 
proportions, and a Prahlada more tender than the creations of 
Vyasa and Shuka. 1 

I See loot-note 1 on page 153 


In the character of Hiranyakashipu Kamban has shown to us 
unequalled prowess and valour combined with extreme pride 
refusing to acknowledge the supremacy of Almighty Power till 
destroyed by It in Its terrible aspects. In this chapter we shall 
see his presentation of valour and powers of the same degree but 
combined with many generous and noble qualities, and yet which 
was extinguished by Shri Rama for a single delinquency. We 
shall devote the greater part of the chapter to Kamban's Vali. 

After Ravana had carried off Sita, Rama and Lakshmana, as 
the reader knows, went southwards and searched for her 
everywhere in the impenetrable forests of Dandaka. At length 
a great tapasvini 1 named Shaphari told them that a Vanara called 
Sugriva who was residing on the Rishyamuka hill would be of 
great help to them in their search, and they accordingly sought 
him on the hill. Although Vali was the king of the Vanaras, 
and the more powerful of the two brothers, and Sugriva was in 
hiding for fear of Vali, the saintly woman considered that Vali 
who had unjustly driven Sugriva out of his kingdom and deprived 
him of his wife, and was even after his life, was undeserving of 
Rama's friendship ; and that was why she sent him to Sugriva 
in preference to Vali. 

After much travel Rama and Lakshmana came to the hill. 
Sugriva came to see them after ascertaining through Hanuman 
that they were not men sent by Vali to kill him. After 
preliminaries were over, Rama told Sugriva that he sought his 
help in his great difficulty. 2 On the other side Sugriva replied 
that he was being pursued and hunted by Vali, his brother, and 
that it was Rama that must protect him from the latter. Rama 
pitied his helpless condition, and impressed with his generous 
nature swore eternal friendship with him. 

After this, Valmiki makes Rama and Lakshmana go to 
Sugriva's home of their own accord, and Sugriva to casually 

i feminine of tapasvi — one who performs spiritual austerities. 
2 Valmiki would make Lakshmana tell Sugriva that Rama had come 
■to take refuge unfler him — Sharanam gat ah. 


mention that he had been even robbed of his wife by Vali. But 
Kamban with his greater dramatic skill represents Sugriva as 
inviting Rama after the swearing of friendship to his cottage on 
the hill, and Rama as asking him whether he also had lost his 
wife like himself, seeing that there was no Vanarini in the cottage 
to serve the guests. Here too he takes care that Sugriva does 
not tell his story himself in reply to Rama as in Valmiki, but 
makes Hanuman as his chief councillor to tell it for him and 
thus saves Sugriva from personally referring to his misfortune 
as hrita bharyah — one who has been robbed of his wife. Hanuman 
describes in detail Vali's exploits and strength and ends by saying 
that Vali had taken away Sugriva's wife. 

The moment that he heard the last words, Rama's eyes grew 
red with rage, for 

Could he who gave away a crown that was 
By right his own to a brother to enjoy — 
Could he forgive an elder brother, who 
Had robbed the younger of his wife by force, 
And now was hunting him unto death ? 1 

So Rama swore to Sugriva that he would kill Vali with his 
bow and restore his wife to him and make him king of Kishkindha. 
In order to give Sugriva confidence in his strength, Rama destroyed 
with one arrow of his the seven sala trees that could never be 
cut down by any living being, and cleared the ground of the 
colossal skeleton of Dundubhi the Asura, who had fought with 
and been defeated by Vali. Sugriva was now convinced of Rama's 
capacity to destroy Vali. He therefore agreed to go and challenge 
Vali on his hill, the arrangement being that while they were 
engaging each other Rama should send his arrow and despatch 

When the challenge of Sugriva reached his ear, Vali rose from 
his bed and frowning listened again. When he understood that 
it was his brother that was calling him to fight he laughed a 
laugh that threw the fourteen worlds off their foundations and 
sent them whirling into outer space. His usual anger against his 
brother soon took possession of his heart, and he now appeared 
like the ocean boiling for the final deluge on the Day of 
Dissolution. The mountain on which he stood sank under his 

i IV ii 112. 


weight. His eyes glistened with the fire of his hatred, shaming 
the aurora of the north. When he smacked his arms with his 
palm, as wrestlers do, the thunderbolts of heaven dropped down, 
and the very hill on which he stood split to pieces. Even the God 
of Death was terrified at his aspect, for he looked at that moment 
like the Time Spirit brooding over and directing the destruction 
of all creation on the final day, or like the boiling mass of poison 
that rose from the ocean when he helped in churning it for the 

He was just starting to go to answer the challenge of his 
brother when Tara his wife came in his way and tried to dissuade 
him from going. 

' Stop me not,' he said, checking her : ' stop me not, 
O wife, fair even as the mountain peacock of the noblest 
breed ! I will answer his challenge and return to thee after 
drinking his life, even as I churned the ocean and got amrit 
in olden days ! n 

But she persisted saying, 

' Sugriva knows thy strength by proof, my lord, 

And ne'er can stand against thy iron fists. 

He is not born again to hope afresh, 

Nor has he greater strength acquired to-day 

By blessing of the Gods ; if now he dares 

To challenge thee, it is because he has 

An ally strong enough to give him hopes 

Of easy victory.' 2 

Vali only laughed at her fears and said, 

' Even if all the three worlds, Tara, stood 

Combined against me they are bound to fail ! 

Canst thou forget the day when Asuras 

And Devas sought to churn the Sea of Milk ? 

The Mandh'ra mountain was the churning rod, 

And Vasuki the mighty cobra was 

The string ! They pulled, but had not strength enough . 

To turn the awful mount. I saw their plight 

And moved with pity helped, and lo ! the sea 

Did yield his glories to my mighty arm. 

1 IV v 14. 2 IV v 15 


Though countless are the foes both Asuras 
And Gods, who tried their strength with me, has one 
Till now prevailed 'gainst me ? Even the God of Death 
Doth tremble at my name : Who then could come 
To help Sugriv ? Should there be such a fool 
As loves to call on his own head his doom, 
Then know that whoso faces me in war, 
One half his force, and blessings earned by him 
From Gods do pass to me sheer : such the power 
That Shiv has blessed me with. Fear not, therefore, 
My Tara, give me leave ! ' 1 

But Tara's fears were not dispelled. She had heard too much 
from her servants to be satisfied with Vali's assurances. She 
therefore begins, 

' My lord, I learn from trusty servants shrewd 
That he has found a great ally in Ram 
Who for his sake has sworn to end thy life 
To-day.' 2 

Vali had heard so much of Rama's nobility and chivalry and 
brotherly and filial love that he had come to look upon him as 
the ideal hero. So when Tara spoke of him as conspiring with 
Sugriva to kill Vali, Vali could not at all believe it. Not merely 
that. He could not brook to hear the ideal of his heart vilified, 
as he thought he was, by these words of Tara. Hence, before she 
could say all that she had heard, he cut her speech short and 
spoke to her these angry words : 

' What hast thou said, with that blaspheming tongue 

Of thine, Tara ? Know'st thou not Ram is born 

To show the way of virtue to the world 

That has forgotten Dharm, and crying loud 

For a saviour in vain, has helpless sunk 

In dark despair ? But that thou art a woman 

And hast in ignorance erred, thou shouldst have died 

For this blasphemy ! How will he think on this, 

Whose eye can see beyond this transient life ? 

Can Dharma falsify itself, that's born 

To save all living kind ? Though all the world 

Lay at his feet, he gave his crown away 

'1 IV v 20. 2 rv v 21. 


Smiling to his brother at the bidding cruel 

Of his step-mother. In lieu of blessing him 

For the grandeur of his soul, do I now hear 

Thee slander Rama ? E'en should all the worlds 

Come thronging on and rush on him at once, 

Does he an ally need beside his bow 

To battle by his side ? Then thinkest thou 

That he would hanker after alliance 

With a worthless ape ? He does his brothers love 

Ev'n as his life : would he then aim his darts 

At me, when I and my brother are engaged 

In combat to decide on rights upon 

The sward ? Know he's a sea of mercy sweet ! 

Rest here a while therefore ; within a trice 

I'll beat Sugriv, and send him to his doom, 

And scattering all who come to his aid 

I'll join thee : dispel thy fears ! 1 

Tata feared to say more, and Vali dashed down the hill to 
accept the challenge of his brother. When he stood before Sugriva 
with the hill behind his back, he looked like the Man-lion who 
came out of the massive column when it was struck by the great 
and terrific Asura. They did not waste time in mere words, but 
started to wrestle with each other with many a war-shout. 

Rama who was ambushed behind a clump of trees close by 
with Lakshmana, was amazed at their size and force, and said to 
his brother, 

' What oceans can we liken to their frames ? 
What clouds ? What storms ? Or What deluging 2 fire ? 
And can one universe hold two such clouds, 
Deluges, storms, or frowning seas ? ' 3 

But Lakshmana was then thinking of something else. He 

' Sugriva has 

A Yama brought to end his brother : though 
Their fight is worthy praise, my heart is pained 
To see this fratricidal fight, and so 
I cannot judge in calmness, brother ! ' 

1 v v 22-27. 

2 The Fire of Hindu mythology which consumes the world during 
the Deluge. (P) 

s IV v 31. 


He ceased. 
But still his heart returned upon its theme, 
And thus unburdened he his mind : ' They say 
It is unwise to put our faith in those 
That are unnatural : when he can harden 
His heart against a brother, and fall on him 
As on a foe, what can his loyalty 
Be worth to strangers, brother ? ' 1 

For this once even Kamban's Rama talks like a cynic. He 
. began by asking, 

' Can we expect ideal morals among 
These foolish apes ? ' 2 

But as Lakshmana's reference to brotherly love brought the 
memory of Bharata, the ideal brother, to his mind, he added, 
not without intending a slight hit at Lakshmana who in the 
pride of his loyalty to Rama was unjust to Bharata, 

' And then, my child, if all 
Were like in their devotions to their brothers, 
How can my Bharata be placed the first 
I' th' list of loyal brothers ? ' 3 

And then he continued thus : 

O hero of the well-developed arms 
Which show like rocks armed with the banded bow, 4 
Wherever thou go, the lovers of virtue are 
But few ; the many love her not. We have 
To take men as they are : and, brother, is there 
A man of whom we can say, ' lo, here is 
A man without a single flaw ? ' 5 

1 IV v 32, 33. 2 IV v 34. 3 IV v 34. 

* By this flattering epithet, Rama intends to heal the wound that 
his previous words must have inflicted on the heart of Lakshmana. 

5 IV v 35. Rama here hints that they themselves are engaged in a 
questionable transaction at this very time, though he would not withdraw 
■ from it now. 


In the meantime Vali and Sugriva had well warmed to their 
ifight. The poet describes the combat grandly, and we shall try 
.to give some parts of that description to the reader : 

They looked like two mammoths wrestling, like two rocks 
dashing against each other, like two lions trying to tear each 
other to pieces. Some time they stood facing each other with 
steady feet, some time they whirled round and round each 
other like a potter's wheel. The earth could not bear their 
pressure when arm pressed against arm ; fire sparks were 
thrown out when foot knocked against foot. Their quick 
blows and guards and locks recalled the sheen of the lightning 
in heaven. And they were like planets colliding with each 
other in the sky. 

We have not seen sea fronting sea, or mountain pit itself 
against mountain, or Wrath taking shape and boiling, dividing 
itself in two. Then what else can we compare their wrestling 

The fire burning in and dropping from their eyes burned 
-the clouds and reduced rocks to a mass of ashes. The 
mammoths of the cardinal points trembled for their lives, 
the gods who had come to witness the fight fled away in 


Seeing them knock each other down unmindful of the 
blood that was pouring from their bruises and wounds, the 
bystanders wondered and asked each other, ' Are they 
struggling in the sky or are they on the peak of the hill ? 
Are they on the earth or are they gone beyond the universe ? 
Or are they within our own eyes ? ' 

The smack of their arms cleaving the air like the tidal 
waves on the stormy sea, was heard to the very ends of 
the universe : the resonance of their fists striking at each 
other's arms and chests resembled the full-mouthed thunder 
of the Day of Dissolution. 

When they struck with their fists on each other's chests, 
it was like the hammer of the mighty-armed smith falling 
on a massive piece of heated iron on the anvil. Veritable 
sparks flew' from their iron chests thus struck. 

They would press each other with their chests, aim kicks 
at each other with their mighty legs, throw each other down 
with force with their hands ; they would join each other and 
knock each other down with fists, and uprooted trunks of 
trees, and rocks. They would roar with wrath and glare at 
•each other. 


They would lift each other with their arms and throw 
each other down, they would wet their hands in the blood 
rushing from their blows, they would whirl round each other 
like mighty kites flown in the wind, they would knit their 
arms and body round each other, they would hug each other 
and fall. 

They would twist their tails round each other's bodies- 
and draw them tight till the bones cracked and broke, they 
would lock each other with their legs and slip from each 
other's locks, they would pierce each other's bodies with their 
lance-like claws, and leave cave-deep wounds upon each 
other's mountain-huge bodies. * 

At length Vali had the upper hand, and with all his force 
aimed a blow against Sugriva which sent him flying into the air. 
As Vali also had been terribly exhausted by the struggle he did 
not pursue him, but stopped there and rested on the ground taking 
breath. Sugriva limped on to where Rama was hiding and fell 
at his feet. No words were needed from Sugriva to tell Rama 
of his condition. Rama told him that he did not aim his arrow 
during the late struggle as he could not distinguish between them 
both, and asked him to wear a garland of flowers and resume the 
fight, when, he said, distinguishing between the two he would 
aim at Vali and bring him down. 

So again Sugriva came and engaged with Vali who with a 
superior smile — which but lightly concealed his frown terrifying 
to the very God of Death — struck at his brother's life-spots with 
all his might. Sugriva vomited blood, and blood flowed in torrents 
from his eyes and nose and ears also. Unable to bear the 
punishment, he looked towards the spot where Rama stood 
concealed. But Vali, with the consciousness of certain victory 
filling his heart, heartlessly followed up his success with further 
knock-out blows. And then he gripped firmly Sugriva's neck 
with one hand and his hip with the other, and lifting him sheer 
poised himself to dash him with a terrific force upon the rock. 

Just at that minute Rama, who was watching his opportunity 
with his bent Kodanda, placed an arrow on the rest, drew back 
the string and sent the dart flying with a mighty force. Says- 
the poet, 

Who can conceive the force of that fiery dart ? 
Great Vali's frame which had the strength combined 

1 IV v 36-38, 40-43, 45-48. 


Of earth and water, fire and wind, was pierced 
By it ev'n as is pierced a plantain ripe 
By a sharp needle ! 1 

Vali's strength failed. And he fell even as the Meru mountain 
would fall uprooted on the Day of Dissolution by the whirlwind. 
And as he fell, the grip of his hands loosened releasing Sugriva ; 
but immediately he caught the feather side of the mortal arrow 
with his hands and struggled with the added might of his hind 
paws and tail in order to stop it from boring its way through his 
adamantine frame. The very God of Death bowed his head in 
admiration when he saw the force of his will and the might of 
his limbs even at that moment. In his wrath at being thus 
ambushed and shot at, he would wish to demolish the very vault 
of the heaven, and attempt to rise in order to strike at it ; he 
would think of destroying the world to its very bounds ; he would 
plough the ground with his iron limbs and desire to bore the 
earth down to its very root. 

As the arrow was still boring into his body he would wonder 
who could have sent that weapon against him. ' May it be the 
Gods,' he would think to himself. But soon he would give up 
that thought asking himself, 'have they the force to handle such 
a missile ? ' Again he would ask himself who could it be ? And 
smile at his inability to fix upon his assailant. And then he 
would declare it must be the deed of one who has the power of 
the Supreme Three. Again he would wonder, 

' Is it the disc of Vishnu or the lance 

Of blue-necked Dhurjati 2 ? Ev'n thunderbolt 

Of Indra, and the lance of Kartikey 

Whose point has bored through rocks, do lack the force 

To pierce my chest ! What can it be, O what ? ' 

Again he struggled to pull it out saying to himself, 

' There stands no bow that can this fell missile 

Propel. Or, did a Rishi send it winged 

With his curse ? ' 3 

So saying he bent forward and then helping his paws and tail 
with his jaw, drew it out sufficiently to see that it was only an 
arrow. As soon as he saw it, he determined to draw it out 
completely and see who aimed it against him, for all great warriors 
carve their names upon their arrows in order to give their enemies 

1 IV v 57. * Siva. 3 IV v 64, 65. 



the chance of knowing by whom they were attacked and 
challenging them if they so desire. 

At length the hero of the dauntless heart 

Drew out the arrow ; Gods and Asuras 

Who saw that wondrous feat felt new force thrill 

In their limbs : for who can help admiring strength ? 

Out rushed the blood resounding even like 

The sea in flood-tide ; and it flowed past rocks 

And woods as if it wished to seek the sea. 

Sugriva saw the blood out-rushing like 

A mountain geyser from the rock-like chest 

Of Vali : and he was much moved despite himself : 

The tie of birth was stronger than his hate 

Implacable, and so with scalding tears 

Cascading from his eyes he fell upon 

The ground senseless. 1 

In his wrath Vali forgot his first thought and tried to break 
the arrow, the head of which was still sticking in his body, but 
it would not break even to his mighty hands. He now remembered 
again his original intentions, and turned the portion that had 
been drawn out towards his eyes in order to see whose name was 
engraved upon its stem. And what did he see ? 

He saw the name which is the Word, the seed 

From which sprang all the worlds : the glory which gives 

Its own self as the highest meed to those 

Who meditate thereon : the healing drug 

To th' ills incurable called earthly life : 

He saw with 'is eyes the sacred mantra Ram — 

Sweet to the eyes to see and ears to hear — 

Carved on the dreadful dart. He saw and laughed 

And blushed as thus he spoke : ' By birth of Ram 

Who has disgraced the name of soldier and 

His bow, great Surya's race, alas, has lost 

Its name for Dharm which e'er was known to be 

Its shield ! Is it for this he left his home 

And took like saint or sage to forest life ? ' 2 

Meantime his pain became more and more intense. Now his 
head would fall limp on the ground. Now he would laugh an 
explosive laugh. He would again fall to musing and say, ' perhaps 

1 IV v 67-69. 2 IV v 71, 72. 


ibis also may be an act of virtyie, who knows ? ' Now he would 
roll in pain ' even as the elephant fallen into the trap-pit prepared 
by the hunter, with the spear still sticking in his gigantic frame.' 
And he asked himself, 

'If he swerves from the right what cart we say of the 

common run of men ? Verily he has acted worse than 

myself.' J 

But while he was saying these words aloud, He appeared, 
whose name is always- mentioned the first in the list of righteous 
men and kings and who incarnated himself as man in order to 
«stablish righteousness on earth. Vali saw that form, looking as 
if a blue cloud laden with rain had descended from the sky, 
adorned with many a fresh-blown lotus, and with the rainbow 
.gracing its body. And as he came near he looked him straight 
in the face and addressed him these words frowning : 

' O Rama, Fate indeed has blindly made 

Thee son of him who threw away his life 

For honour's sake and truth's ; but shouldst thou too 

Have seen the light before the saintly Bharat ? 

Thou punishest evil deeds : but do they cease 

To be ill deeds when thou art thyself doer ? . . . 

' Can any count thy blessings ? Learning, birth, 

Beauty, and valour are all thine ; and thou 

Art heir to a sceptre wielding power o'er all 

The worlds ! And thou hast shown the strength and skill 

Of thine arm even now : were all these given 

To thee alone to bring eternal shame 

Upon the name of Knight ? and thou art wise, 

I've heard it said ! 

' All highly virtues come 
By instinct to the children of thy race : 
How then couldst thou this deed of shame commit ? 
I fear thy mind has lost its balance, since 
Thou didst from Jan'ka's swan-like daughter part, 
Who was as life to thee and very soul ! 

' Now tell me, Ram, has Manu anywhere 
Ordained that if a Rakshas parts thy wife 
From thee, thou must at once destroy the king 
Of apes ? Where's gone thy tenderness, O man ? 

^ IV v 74. 


And how have I offended* thee ? If thou 
Should run thus after infamy, on whom 
Should Glory shed her rays ? 

' In all this wide 
World ocean-girt, should th' Age of Iron dawn 
Alone upon an ape ? Are equity 
And right reserved alone for feeble ones ? 
I did forget ; when Might committeth sin 
Doth not the world bestow on it a crown ? 

' And who can beat thy glory ? For thou gavest 
A kingdom to thy brother at Ayodh ! 
And here in jungles wild, to balance that 
Thou hast my kingdom on my brother here 
As gift bestowed ! 

' Thou hast now thyself shown, O Ram, that power 
Can work its will, unjust or just, secure : 
But say, if thou art right in killing me, 
Because thou couldst thy arrow aim unseen, 
Canst thou at all the Rakshas king accuse 
Of carrying off thy spouse by force or guile ? 

' When two in duel stand engaged, the just 
Regard them both with equal eye : but if 
A man is moved towards one, and hid behind 
A bush, does shoot the other down with sharp 
And pointed arrows aiming at the heart, 
Is it an act of Dharm ? — or something else ? 

' It is not valour thou hast shown, or love 
Of equity ; there is no feud betwixt 
Thy house and mine ; my body did not press 
Thy earth with its intolerable weight ; and sure 
Thou wouldst not call thy sinful deed a deed 
Of mercy : what then was in thy mind, O Ram ? 

' If thou didst hanker after an ally 
To fight the war against the Rakshas king, 
What wisdom led thee turn thy back upon 
The tusker roaming fearless o'er the wilds 
And kneel thee down before a puny hare ? 

' It is the moon alone that had a spot 
Till now upon her face : the sun remained 
A stainless globe of light. But thou hast ta'en 


"Thy birth in his thriite glorious house, and lo, 
He beats the moon in, the blackness of his spot ! 

' Are not ashamed to show thy face as man 
And warrior, who hast laid a trap for me, 
And lying concealed behind a bush, hast aimed 
A mortal dart against my chest, when I 
But came to meet a foe that challenged me ? 
Thy conduct gives the lie to the learning which 
They say thou dost possess : thy deed has brought 
Disgrace upon thy great forbears ! for, Man ! 
Thou hast not killed Vali, but hast destroyed 
The fence that shields the seedling Dharm from ill ! 

' O fie on thee ! A foe has carried off 
Thy spouse, while on thy idle shoulder lies 
That bow mocking thy valour. Is't only good 
In unfair fight concealed for shooting down 
An unarmed foe ? ' 1 

Thus did Vali address his bitter reproaches to Rama who was 
standing before him calm and unperturbed the while Vali's words 
were coming on like sharp-pointed arrows. When Vali had 
exhausted all his sarcasms and invectives, Rama justified himself 
as follows : 

' When thou hadst gone after thy foe, O Vali, inside the 
mountain cave, and days innumerable passed without any 
trace of thee, Sugriva desired to follow thy footsteps and look 
for thee ; but the councillors of thy state prevented him and 
desired him to assume the crown. He protested that he must 
fight and die ending the enemy that must have killed thee, 
his brother, and that he would not think of ascending the 
Vanara throne. But thy sage ministers and generals, and 
ancients would not allow him to have his way, and crowned 
him king of Kishkindha. When thou returnedest victorious, 
he was glad, and he explained to thee how he came to sit 
upon the throne. But thou got'st enraged and desired'st to 
kill him though he prayed to thee as a suppliant to spare him. 
Although he fled to countries far and wide, thou didst not take 
pity on him who is thy own mother's son. It is only the 
curse of the Rishi Matanga that checked thee from seeking 
him on yonder hills where he had at length sought refuge. 

1 IV v 76-84, 86-90. 


. . . . ' Thou talkest of mercy and gentle birth and equity 
and valour : depriving another of his wife — is it mercy ? Or 
nobility of birth ? or justice ? or valour ? The arrogant 
tyranny that fights without cause, and pitiless cruelty towards 
the weak are the chief unpardonable crimes against the laws 
of chivalry. And lust towards the wife of another is the 
highest crime against Dharma. This is the conclusion of the 
wise. Thou knowest the Dharma and understandeth what is 
right and what is wrong. And still thou didst not care for 
Dharma or the right. For if thou hadst cared, wouldst thou 
have desired the dear wife. of thy brother? Because of all 
this, and because thy brother has come to me a friend, dear 
as life, I shot my dart at thee '. ' For,' concluded Rama, 

' It is my ever-pressing vow to help 

Th' oppressed, the poor, and those forlorn.' 1 

Against this elaborate counter-attack Vali defended himself 
thus : 

' Brahma, O sire, has not ordained for us Vanaras the 
same laws of marriage that he has established for you men, 
amongst whom the chastity of women is a most cherished 
possession. He has made us to mate as we please. There 
is no marriage amongst us, nor conduct based on the Vedas, 
but what comes out of our own inclination of the moment. 
Where then have I offended against Dharma, O Rama ? ' 2 
Rama now clinched his argument, repudiating the self- 
justification of Vali in this wise : 

' Thou call'st thyself a brute ; but as thou art 
The son of Indra, king of gods, and canst 
Distinguish right from wrong, who can accept 
Thy specious words, unworthy of a king ? 
'Tis not the body but the mind that rules 
The moral life. Canst thou be called a brute 
Ignoring right and wrong, who know'st the ways 
Well-trodden by the wise of austerities ? 
Can we that tusker class with brutes, who when 
The savage crocodile did grip his leg 
Called on the Lord Supreme, and for his trust 
And love was blest with ever-lasting life ? 

1 IV v 92-102. 2 IV v 104, 105. 


And he, my noble father, who did fight, 

Moved by his love of Dharm, to save my spouse 

Lamenting in the enemy's chariot, 

And falling has attained the hero's heaven, 

Was not he born a vulture in form and shape ? 

' They alone are brutes who know not right from wrong. 

Hast thou not shown by words that have e'en now 

Fall'n from thy mouth, that there is not a truth 

In all the moral codes that thou ignor'st ? 

If one cannot the right from wrong discern, 

He is a brute though bearing human form. 

But even brutes the wise look on as gods 

When they do shape their life on Manu's laws. 

By great devotion to the God * whose lance 

Did quench the might of Yam, thou hast been blessed 

With strength combined of all the elements four. 

But many by their later sins do fall 

From heights that good deeds once had earned for them : 

While not a few there are who have retraced 

Their steps from sin, and have become great saints 

And even gods. So beings rise or fall 

By their own deeds, or good or ill : thou know'st 

This truth, and yet thou hast thy brother's house 

To ruin brought and hast destroyed his peace ! ' 2 

Vali was now convinced that he deserved to die for the great 
and unpardonable wrong that he had done to his brother. But 
being brave himself, and knowing Rama to be the very 
embodiment of valour, he could not understand why Rama took 
the cowardly expedient of shooting him unawares. So he asked 

' O thou of perfect rectitude, I grant all that thou hast 

said : but why hast thou shot me, concealed behind a bush, 

like a base and cruel hunter shooting down a beast ? ' 3 

Rama had no real reply to this pertinent question. His action 

could be explained to Vali only by a specious reason. 4 So Kamban 

takes care that Rama does not answer this question himself, and 

1 Shiva. 2 rv v 111-115. 3 IV v 116. 

4 The real reason is that if Rama faced Vali, half his strength would 
go over to Vali in accordance with the blessing he had received from 
Shiva. So Rama could not use all his normal strength while Vali will 
get a new accession of strength which would have successfully 
prevented Rama's arrow from entering his body and killing him. 


makes Lakshmana take it upon himself to reply to it. Lakshmana 

' When first thy brother refuge sought with us 
From thy unrighteous rage, my brother swore 
That he would send thee to the halls of Yam. 
He feared that thou too, should he show his face 
To thee, might haply wish to save thyself 
And fall a suppliant at his feet ; 1 and so 
It is that he concealed himself to aim 
His dart at thee.' 2 

The generous-hearted and, therefore, simple-minded Vali 
questioned no further. He saw that Rama was the Lord of the 
earth and heaven and felt that he could never do an unrighteous 
act. So he bowed to Rama and thus addressed him : 

thou who art th' embodiment of right ! 

From e'en the way that thou hast dealt with us 

1 clearly see thy justice stern and love 
To living kind as deep as is a mother's. 
Forgive my sins, O Lord, and counting me 
A mere ape, take not to heart the words 

With which I thee reproached. O giver of good, 
Who art the medicine rare that cures the ills 
Of birth and death ! Thou hast thy arrow aimed 
Against my chest, and at the point of death 
Has given me jnan. Thou art the One Supreme, 
Thou art Three in One, thou art the All : 
What else there is, e'en art thou ! Both Sin 
Thou art and Dharm, and foe thou art, and friend ! 
Is there a Dharma other than thy dart 
Which has destroyed the blessings given by Shiv 
And other gods, and pierced from front to back 
My powerful chest ? Great Shiva blesses all 
By power acquired by only saying thy name. 
Now what is hard for me to get, when I 
Behold thy holy self in flesh and blood ? 
Sages have said that thou art everything 

i The reader will remember Rama's sentiments as regards suppliants 
expressed in his speech in the Vanara council when Vibhishana came to 
seek refuge. Lakshmana's idea is that if Vali should have fallen at 
Rama's feet he would have been in a dilemma — whether to kill Vali and 
make good his solemn oath to Sugriva or to save Vali and falsify it 

2 IV v 117. 


And all, and Time, and fruit that Time evolves : 

The world's the flower, and thou the scent thereof. 

Can heaven escape me now that I have seen 

Thyself with fleshly eyes ? Thee I have seen 

Who art but Dharma in human shape : what more 

Is there for me to see ? And all the sins 

That I have done from ancient days up to 

This moment — all are burnt away today ! 

Is there a better good that brother can 

To brother do ? Sugriv has brought thee here 

To kill me with thy dart, which straight does take 

Me to the realms of heaven, leaving him 

The tasteless, empty crown of an earthly realm. 

' Permit me now, O Ram, to make to thee 
A dying prayer : if he, my brother, errs, 
His mind confused by drink, aim not at him, 
I pray with joined hands, the death that's named 
Thy dart that thou hast aimed at me. And see 
That thy own brothers point not the finger of scorn 
Against Sugriv for having brought about 
My death : for thou hadst thyself sworn to right 
His wrongs ; and how could he be charged for deeds 
That flow therefrom as effects from their cause ? 

' For other things, O victor, though unblessed, 

That fortune might yet have been mine to place 

Before thee Ravan tied unto my tail, 

And show thee all my little monkey tricks. 

Alas, e'en this has been denied to me. 

But what avails it now to think of all 

That might have been ? Let's think alone of that 

Which might yet be : if thou desire the king 

Of Lanka to be brought to thee o'er here 

In chains tied hand and foot, or anything 

Impossible for others to attempt, 

Behold this Hanuman, he will fulfil 

Thy every hest. Look on this hero, Lord, 

As a bow ready bent in thy own hand. 

Look on my brother as thine ; nowhere canst find 

Allies like unto these. Pursue, therefore, 

O Ram, thy search for Sita fair, thy queen.' 1 

a IV v 119-130. 


He ceased ; and then calling Sugriva to his side he advised 
him thus : 

' Remember, and doubt not, Sugriva, that the Supreme 
One declared by the Vedas, Rishis, Brahma himself and 
the Shastras, has incarnated Itself and walks the earth as 
Rama in order to re-establish Righteousness here below. 
It is on his name that those meditate who desire lasting 
good. If proof thou wantest, is not the fact that he has 
been able to wound me mortally itself sufficient proof ? 
When even those who die by his dart attain the highest 
heaven, though they might have been committing all the 
deadly sins, and all the days of their lives, how can we 
measure the good that will be the portion of those who 
serve him with love ? . . . Yield not to the temptations 
natural to our kind, but remember with gratitude the help 
that he has given thee, and help him in thy turn even to 
the extent of thy life. Obey his every command implicitly, 
and attain Eternal Life. Forget not thyself in the pleasures 
of thy palace, but remember that kings are like fire : think 
not they would forgive one when one sins against them.' 1 

After thus admonishing Sugriva, Vali turned to Rama and 

' O son of the king of kings, I here consign 
To thy protection and paternal care 
Sugriva here and all his kin ! ' 

Angada, the son of Vali, then came from his hill sent for 
by Sugriva at Vali's request. When he saw his father lying in 
the sea of his own blood, he fell on his body, ' even as a star 
of tiny magnitude falling upon the full-orbed moon,' and 
lamented loud. But Vali embraced and consoled him saying, 

' It is for my own good, child, that Rama has done this 
to me. Birth and death come inevitable to all who live 
in the three worlds. It is because I have earned great merit 
by my austerities that this end has come to me, and Rama 
who stands as the Eternal Witness in the hearts of all has 
come to me in person and given me salvation. Now give 
up thy childhood thoughts, my boy, and if thou wouldst 
learn, behold, the One Truth than which no higher does 

I IV v 132-134, 136, 137. 


exist has come down to earth in flesh and blood for our 
eyes to see, and stands before us, Its feet touching the ground. 
Worship thou therefore Him, my child, as the medicine to 
the Illusion-bred disease of birth ! Think not ever that He 
has wrought my death, but work for thy salvation by serving 
Him, and if he has wars to wage, aid him with all thy might 
and fight his battles for him.' 1 

He finished, and embracing him once again, he addressed 
Rama and said, 

' Behold this only child of mine, O Lord ! 

He loveth Dharm, but is a consuming fire 

To the stubble called the black-skinned Rakshas race. 

I leave him to thy tender care, O Ram ! ' 2 

Angada then fell at Rama's feet, and Rama as a token of 
his accepting the pledge handed to him his sword. Seeing that, 
the seven worlds shouted for joy. 

Vali was now perfectly happy. He saw his boy accepted by 
Rama, and himself, as having fallen by Rama's hand, was sure 
of salvation. He had therefore nothing more to desire or say. 
And so, even with the sight of Rama blessing Angada, his soul 
passed away in peace. 

Vali is a grand creation of Valmiki. His strength and 
stature, valour and self-confidence, love and hate, and last great 
repentance, have been drawn by Valmiki in firm outline. His 
reproof of Rama is scathing and true to life. But Rama being 
nothing more than a great king to Valmiki, he has not hesitated 
to put specious arguments and cruel and unfeeling expressions - 
in the mouth of Rama when replying to the invectives of Vali. 
Bhaskara, the Telugu poet, has closely followed Valmiki in the 
relation of the incidents as well as in the speeches of Vali and 
Rama. As this is one of the finest of ghattas 3 in both Valmiki 
and Kamban, each poet endeavouring to give the reader the best 
that he is capable of, we extract in Appendix II 4 the vital 

» IV v 146-149. 2 iv v 151. 

3 Episodes. 

* Aiyar had not provided the extracts, or at least the manuscripts 
which have come to us do not contain them. We have done our best 
in the circumstances and have provided in the Appendix as copious 
extracts as may be necessary. Aiyar appears to have contemplated a 
comparison between Kamban and Tulsidas as well, for we find in his 
rough manuscripts translations of extracts from Tulsidas's Ramayana 


portions of this episode in Valmiki's Ramayana, so that the 
reader might see for himself in detail what Kamban takes from 
his original, and what he makes of it. We shall, therefore, 
content ourselves here with pointing out and comparing only the 
salient features of the episodes in the two authors. 

In the first place Valmiki has made a comparatively long 
time to elapse between the first and second engagements of the 
brothers. In Valmiki, after the first engagement, Sugriva flies 
far into the hill of refuge, whither Rama and others follow him. 
This compels Valmiki to put piteous words in the mouth of 
Sugriva from the effect of which even the genius of Kamban has 
not been able to rescue his character. Griffith thus translates 
Sugriva's condition and words as given by Valmiki: 

Then, for intolerable shame, 
Not daring yet to lift his eyes, 
Sugriva spoke with burning sighs : 
' Thy matchless strength I first beheld, 
And dared my foe, by thee impelled : 
Why hast thou tried me with deceit 
And urged me to a sure defeat ? 
Thou shouldst have said, ' I will not slay 
Thy foeman in the coming fray.' 
For had I then thy purpose known 
I had not waged the fight alone.' 

The Vanar sovereign lofty-souled, 
In plaintive voice his sorrows told .... 

The reader will remember Kamban's description of 
Sugriva's defeat after showing equal valour and almost equal 
strength. Contriving the situation in the fashion that he has 

under the heading ' Appendix '. But as Aiyar had not in his final manu- 
scripts made any reference to Tulsidas anent this episode we refrain from 
publishing that Appendix. 
The appendix begins : 

"This episode of Vali has not been well handled by Tulsidas. 
The reader has seen how much poetry Valmiki has introduced into 
this episode and how much of heroism and pathos and other rasas 
Kamban has embellished it with. By the side of these, Tulsidas's Vali 
vadha upakhyana looks callow indeed. We shall give hereunder the 
vital portions of it in order to satisfy the curiosity of the reader : " 
After comparing extensively with the supreme Valmiki it appears 
pointless to compare again with Tulsidas, which may be why Aiyar finally 
discarded the appendix. (P) 


done, he has avoided the necessity of putting any words, which 
must necessarily be weak and feeble, in the mouth of the future 
king of the Vanaras. It is Rama, in his story, that explains to 
him on seeing him in his exhausted condition, why he did not 
aim his arrow against Vali. So also in the second fight after 
the interval, Sugriva in Kamban only looks in the direction where 
Rama was standing. 

When Sugriva challenges Vali for the fight, and Tara trie& 
to dissuade Vali from accepting the challenge, Valmiki makes 
Vali hear her words to the very end. And he dismisses her 
reference to Rama only with these words : 

' Nor, O my love, be thou dismayed 
Though Rama lend Sugriva aid ; 
For one so pure and duteous, one 
Who loves the right, all sin will shun.' 

But see how Kamban's keen sense of the dramatic makes 
Vali interrupt Tara as soon as she says that Sugriva has got an 
ally who would conquer Vali for him. And how cleverly again 
Kamban makes his Vali cut short her words at her mere mention 
of the name of Rama as the ally she spoke of in the beginning ! 
The zealous and passionate defence of Rama by Vali to his wife 
at once increases Vali's moral stature and intensifies the tragedy 
of the situation. For while on the one hand Vali admires Rama's 
grandeur of soul in parting with his crown to Bharata, looks 
upon him as the mighty hero who requires none to help him, 
and enthusiastically declares him to be the very Avatar of 
Dharma and a sea of mercy, on the other hand Rama is full of 
rancour and hatred against Vali and stands ready ambushed to 
kill him by treachery. 

Again, just *as a great musician conscious of his powers 
would keep his hearers in suspense by interposing between them 
and the climax that they are expecting, a surprise avritta, 1 
perfect in itself and satisfying to the ear in spite of the delay 
in the expected crescendo, so Kamban introduces an aside 
between Rama and Lakshmana before he would allow the reader 
to see the fight of Vali and Sugriva and hear Vali's reproof and 
subsequent exoneration of Rama. In that little conversation of 
the brothers, Kamban displays all the art and skill of the Hoysala 

i a musical paragraph. 


.sculptor in the carving of the tiny elephant in the Hoysalesvara 
temple at Halebid. 1 

The wrestling of Vali and Sugriva is more elaborately 
described in Kamban than in Valmiki. The reader's interest 
is kept keyed up to the highest pitch from beginning to end 
of the whole fight, and though he expects Rama to shoot Vali 
down, the description of the last grip of Vali makes him almost 
believe that soon all will be over with Sugriva. Compare 
Valmiki's description, 

Then Rama saw Sugriva quail, 

Marked his worn strength -grow weak and fail, 

Saw how he turned his wistful eye 

To every quarter of the sky. 

His friend's defeat he could not brook, 

Bent on his shaft an eager look, 

Then burned to slay the conquering foe, 

And laid his arrow on the bow 

with Kamban's description of the final step of the fight where 
he presents the reader with the picture of Vali lifting Sugriva 
bodily up, and poising himself to dash him upon the rock. 
Kamban takes care to avoid the impression of slowness in the 
. action which the last four lines of the above quotation give. 

The struggle of Vali with the arrow, in Kamban, culminating 
with the line ' for who can help admiring strength ' 2 is one 
of the finest word-paintings ever painted in literature of sheer 
physical force and might. And note his art which by delaying 
the appearance of Rama sharpens the curiosity of the reader as 
to what Vali will say to him when he sees him, while at the 
same time delighting the reader to the full with his majestic, 
slow-moving, cinematograph-like picture of Vali's struggle with 
Rama's dart. This is higher art than that of Valmiki who 
interposes no action, let alone action that captures all the 
attention of the reader, between Vali's fall and Rama's 
appearance, and satisfies himself merely with a description of 
the ornaments and physical appearance of the great Vanara. 

Even Rama's appearance before Vali, how finely Kamban 

i The elephant is carved in perfect proportions, though a bean will 
cover the whole carving. It will be found in the southern face of the 
temple. Halebid is in Hassan district in Mysore State. 

2 IV v 67 ; see page 178. 


stage-manages It, introducing it first with the reading of the 
name by Vali, and then with his' soliloquy over the treachery 
of Rama, and lastly completing the picture by again reminding 
the reader of Vali's condition which was ' even as an elephant 
fallen into the trap-pit prepared by the hunter, with the spear 
.still sticking in his gigantic frame.' 1 We shall also bring to the 
notice of the reader, another master-stroke of the poet deliberately 
introduced with a deep underlying purpose, but which looks as 
if it was merely flourished into the canvas by a lucky accident 
or as the result of an over-exuberant fancy. We refer to the 
swooning away of Sugriva at the sight of the blood flowing from 
Vali's wound. By this one little stroke Kamban has to a large 
extent redeemed the blackness of' Sugriva's treachery to his 

For he desires that Sugriva, the sworn ally and brother 
and constant companion of Rama in the future, should bear 
as white a character as can possibly be given to him without 
doing violence to the main incidents of the story as given 
by Valmiki. 

Vali's speech attacking Rama is so exhaustive in Valmiki 
that Kamban finds himself obliged to use most of the arguments 
and turns out of it. The ideas in the verses from line 14 of Vali's 
first speech up to line 42 alone 2 seem to be his original contri- 
butions to the arguments and attacks of Vali. But the reader 
will notice that while, in Valmiki, Vali's speech is rambling and 
lacking in order, in Kamban it is certainly more cogent, and rises 
in intensity gathering new force to itself as it unrolls itself until 
the final taunt is delivered. 

But what is most worthy of remark in the colloquy in Kamban 
is the greater dramatic skill displayed by the poet from beginning 
to end, and the high moral tone that pervades the replies of Rama. 
In Valmiki, as we have remarked before, Rama's arguments are 
specious. He declares himself to be the Deputy of Bharata, and 
the executor of his orders. He says, 

' We now, as Bharat had decreed, 

Toil each sinner to repress .... 
Now Bharat rules with sovereign sway, 
And we his royal word obey .... 

i IV v 73. 

2 See pages 179, 180— lines beginning " I fear thy mind has lost ' 
4o " And kneel thee down before a puny hare ". 


And we, chastising those who err 

His righteous doom administer .... 


Obey our king and are not free.' .... 

The second and final argument of Valmiki's Rama — that he,. 
as a kshattriya, was quite at liberty to kill, in whatever manner 
he pleased, Vali — who was no more than a monkey — lacks 
tenderness and truth, and is unworthy of the character of Rama. 

But in Kamban, the argument is based on indisputable grounds 
of morality. Vali in the pride of his strength and power was 
pursuing his innocent brother with the object of killing him and 
besides had deprived him of his wife. ' Therefore ' says Rama, 
' I shot my dart at thee. For, 

It is my ever-pressing vow to help 
Th' oppressed, the poor, and those forlorn.' l 

Vali's defence of his conduct with regard to his brother's wife- 
and Rama's reply thereto are Kamban's contributions to the story. 
Rama's reply is grandly conceived. In his allusion to Jatayus, 
the poet gives us an exquisite blend of the Vira and Karuna 
rasas. 2 

Vali now admits that Rama is justified in punishing him with 
death. But why is it that he, a warrior and lover of Dharma, did 
take to the cowardly expedient of ambushing him and then aiming 
his dart at him ? As we have remarked before, there is no real 
justification for it except expediency. Vali is blessed with the 
Ttnagic capacity of drawing to himself one half of the force and 
powers of any opponent that would face him, and God himself 
may not take away the fruits of austerities earned by any being — 
virtuous or vicious. And hence Rama circumvents the boon 
conferred upon Vali by Shiva by shooting him without coming 
before him. So by making Lakshmana reply to Vali's question, 
Kamban has saved Rama from the dilemma of either speaking an 
untruth or admitting a limitation to his powers. 3 

1 IV v 102. Also see pages 181 and 182. 

2 The heroic and pathetic emotions. 

3 Monsieur KICHENASSAMY, writing in the Hind (see page 152), 
also alludes to the Vali Episode ; and we quote certain extracts below 
which accord surprisingly closely with Aiyar's sentiments : 

"Si j'ai pu faire rialiser a met auditeurs la conception reelle de Rama. 
selon KarabaN, je pourrai raaintenant aborde'r. avec fruit, l'une des questions- 


The conversation between Tara and Vali, beautiful as it is 
from the point of view of dramatic construction, serves a .subtler 
purpose in the hands of Kamban. As we have already remarked 
above, it impresses the reader with the super-normal physical 
prowess of the Vanara king and the grandeur of his soul iri 
defending a great man from the slander of his own wife. But 
Kamban in the same conversation and the subsequent march of 
the episode is also slowly preparing a justification for Rama's 
action. The reference by Vali to his immense prowess and magical 
capacity ' mentioned by us above aims at making the reader think 
that perhaps even Rama could not have killed Vali if he should 
have faced him. And if Vali must be killed for his crimes against 
Sugriva, as the reader like Vali himself must agree after Rama's 
justification, what has Rama to do except shoot at him from 
behind a cover without facing him ? But at the same time, see 
how Kamban takes care that Vali does not say that this magical 
power would work against Rama also. It is after his reference 
to his magical power that Tara mentions Rama's name, and 
naturally one would expect Vali to say that that magic would 
cover Rama's case as well. But the careful Kamban does not 
put these words into his mouth. For he wants to leave the 
capacity of Rama to fight face to face with Vali an open question, 

les plus delicates du Ramayana, le meurtre de Vali, et confronrer en toute 
objectivite les arguments fournis par Valmiki et KambaN. 

Vali qui De s'attendait pas a cette agression reconnut la la fleche de 
Rama et dans l'agonie se mit a proferer de violentes injures. 

Ce a quoi le Rama de Valmiki repond en ces termes:u Je vous ai tut 
ainsi farce que vous n'avez pas rtspecti le Darma de vos ancetres ; la punitien que 
je vous ai infligee est equitable a tout point de vue ; les hommes emplaient divers 
en fins pour attraper Its animaux et comme veus etes un singe, je peux vous tuer 
n'importe comment. >) Or, ces arguments ne tiennent pas iacilement debout 
d'autant plus qu'il est assez difitcile de determiner de Vali et de Sukrlva 
lequel a vraiment tort. Pourrait-on vraiment soutenir que le cadet n'a point 
voulu usurper le trdne de son frere, car, comme le fait remarquer Subramaniya 
Moudaliar, il eut ete plus logique de sa part de faire couronner roi le fils de 
Vali plutot que soi-meme lors de la disparition de ce dernier. 

Mais chez KambaN la reponse est nette : c'est Sukrlva qui d'abord 
implora le secours de Rama et une fois la promesse faite il s'agissait avant tout 
de la tenir. Or, si Rama se presentait en personne devant Vali ce dernier 
pourrait k son tour se refugier a ses pieds et Rama, de par son principe, se 
verrait contraint de manquer a sa promesse." 

• l In Valmiki, as the reader will see in the Appendix, Vali' makes no 
such reference to it in his speech to Tara. ' 



being satisfied with the impression in the mind of his reader that 
possibly the Vara 1 of Vali would have enabled him to withstand 
the force of Rama's dart if Rama had appeared before him. 

The last words of Vali in Kamban, again, convert the ordinary 
hero of Valmiki into a being endowed with supreme moral 
grandeur. In Valmiki, Vali's words on behalf of Angada and Tara 
crowd out his generous gift of his might-bestowing garland to 
Sugriva, and the reader does not get poetically impressed with 
Vali's grandeur of soul in bestowing the gift on his late enemy 
instead of on his own son. But in Kamban, every word of Vali 
after his acknowledgement of his sins is calculated to increase 
his moral stature. Vali's addresses to Sugriva and Angada and 
Rama are a masterly study of how the clarified soul will look 
upon the affairs of the world after attaining jnana. He not only 
exonerates his brother of his murder, but looks upon him as one 
who helped him to attain the highest salvation. He recommends 
him tenderly to Rama. The manly pathos of his reference to the 
help that he could and would have rendered to Rama had fate 
been kind to him is a beautiful touch of the poet. And then it 
is a grand stroke to make Vali recommend Hanuman to Rama. 
While on the one hand it raises the character of Vali in pardoning 
Hanuman for his disloyalty against himself, 2 on the other hand 
it makes us think highly of, and start with a decided partiality 
for the Vanara whom Vali regards as his own equal in strength 
and valour. This reference is a fitting introduction to Hanuman's 
grand exploits in the Fifth and Sixth Books of the Poem, and it 
is in the fitness of things that Vali is made to extol his great 

The reader may have noticed that Kamban's Vali does not, 
as Valmiki's Vali does, recommend Tara to Rama or Sugriva. He 
does not even see and console Tara who comes on the scene only 
after his death. But the ending of Vali in Kamban is so dramatic 
and satisfying to the poetic sense that the mind does not inquire 
why Kamban did not make Vali see and speak to Tara before he 
passed away. 

i The blessing given by gods to beings with whose devotions and 
austerities they are pleased. 

2 i.e., by joining Sugriva in his exile and aiding and abetting him in 
the bringing about of Vali's death. 



Today Hanuman holds a unique place among Hindu gods and 
heroes. Temples dedicated to his godhead are scattered all over 
India. Miracles are performed in his name. Scholars meditate 
on his powers for years, and as a result of that meditation attain 
intellectual powers unimaginable by people belonging to the 
younger civilization of the West. 1 Ramadas, the Guru of Shivaji, 
imagined himself to be an incarnation of Hanuman and dotted 
the whole of Maharashtra with temples built to his divinity. The 
orthodox Hindu still believes that Hanuman is even today living 
in his own identical body, and that when this Kalpa 2 ends and 
another Kalpa begins, he will be appointed by the Supreme as 
the regent of the Brahmaloka and creator of the universe. We 
shall in this chapter study the character and exploits of this 
great hero of the Ramayana as our poet has developed them: 

The most outstanding feature of Hanuman's character is his 
devotion to Rama. At the very first sight of Rama and Lakshmana 
— at the time that he comes to find out who they might be — -as 
they were wandering on the slopes of the Rishyamuka hill, his 
heart melts with love for them. He feels as one who unexpectedly 
falls in with friends from whom he had parted long before. 

' How even tigers and pards,' he thought within himself, 
' look on them with tenderness, even as they would on their 
own cubs ! Peacocks and other birds fly in groups and shade 
the delicate bodies of these strangers from the hot rays of 
the sun with their great wings : clouds cool them with their 
little rain drops, marching over them as they walk on. The 
burning stones on their way become soft and cool as honey- 
dripping flowers to their feet at every step. Even trees and 
plants worship them, bending down their heads when they 
come near. Are they Dharma's self ? Are these beings gods 
indeed who wipe off the sorrows of living kind and give them 

i The late Tiruppati Kavi, the great Shatavadhani * and poet of 
Andhradesha, is said to have attained his phenomenal memory and 
poetic gifts by meditating on this great servant of Rama. 

(* Shatavadhani — one who could concentrate his mind on a 

hundred topics at the same time.) 


salvation, burning away the inevitable fruits of their deeds ? 
My very bones melt, the flood-gates of love are opened within 
my heart, and I see no limit or end to the affection that surges . 
within me towards them ! ' 1 

He nears Rama and Lakshmana, disguised as a Brahman 
youth, and impresses Rama greatly with his modest bearing and 
his replies to his questions. After listening to but a few words 
of his, Rama says to Lakshmana, 

' It appears that there is no knowledge, brother, that this 

young man has not acquired. He looks a very ocean of Vedic 

lore. Who can he be, this childe of the eloquent tongue ? 

May he be Brahma or may he be Shiva ? ' 2 

As he took leave of Rama after this short interview, promising 

to bring Sugriva to him, Hanuman fell at his feet. Rama 

protested that being a Brahman he should not have fallen down 

at his feet. But Hanuman, ' who was born to save Dharma from 

her loneliness,' told him that he was only a Vanara ; and intending 

to show Rama his capacity to serve him, he stood assuming his 

own proper shape. Even the Meru mountain appeared too small 

to be compared to his high and mighty shoulders. Seeing his vast 

size and superhuman strength, Rama spoke to his brother these 

words about Hanuman : 

' Even that perfection which cannot be expressed by the 
Vedas, or even perceived by the uncorrupted jnana, has 
descended to this earth, brother, taking the shape of a Vanara. 
We have won this grand hero for a friend, and the omens are 
good : vanished now are all our sufferings, and days of 
happiness are dawning for us. And think of the greatness 
of the king of the Vanaras who has such a hero to obey his 
every hest.' 3 

As Hanuman is on his way to Sugriva after seeing them, his 
mind is incessantly dwelling on their noble features and nobler 
virtues. And when he sees his master, he cannot contain himself, 
but says to him, 

' O sire, We are blessed indeed, beyond measure, both 

myself and thy race ! For the Yama is come who has the 

force to destroy Vali : we have crossed the sea of misery ! ' * 

and he dances for joy, ' even like the God who drank the poison * 

to save mankind.' 

l IV ii 12-15. 2 IV ii 20. 3 IV ii 36, 37. 

4 IV ii 40. 5 Shiva. 

HAtttTMAtt *' 197 

With every minute, however, his love and admiration for 
Kama go on differentiating themselves from his love and 
admiration for Lakshmana, and he adds to the former another 
emotion, namely that of Bhakti. 1 His attraction to Rama finally 
becomes as inevitable as the attraction of iron to the magnet. 
His whole heart fills itself quickly with the image of Rama to the 
exclusion of almost any other. He can never from now on speak 
of Rama in the language of moderation. For he has come to 
believe Rama to be greater than the Trinity — he believes him to 
be the Ultimate Brahman Itself. So in the course of the same 
account to Sugriva of his meeting with the Men, he says, 

' Rama is Vishnu himself worshipped by the Devas : for 
what man could have killed Maricha who came disguised as 
a magic deer ? ' 2 

Hanuman's belief in the divinity of Rama was further 
confirmed by the incident of Sampati which we shall relate here. 
After the death of Vali and the ending of the rainy season, Sugriva 
assembled his Vanara forces and sent them all over the earth to 
search for Sita. Hanuman marched south under the command 
of Angada, the son of Vali. After a great many adventures his 
party reached the promontory of Mahendra abutting itself into 
the channel between India and Lanka. Sita had not been 
discovered so far, and now the ocean barred their further advance. 
The time of one month fixed by Sugriva for them to return with 
their task accomplished was fast drawing to a close, and they 
were filled with despair and sorrow at not having discovered her. 
While they stood on the hill discussing whether they should take 
their lives there on account of their failure or should return to 
Kishkindha and report their ill-success to their king, Hanuman 
said, ' we must rather pursue our search and fall like Jatayus who 
gave up his life in defence of Sita ! ' Sampati, who was a brother 
of Jatayus, was living on that hill with his wings burnt out, in 
the hope that somebody might come there and repeat the name 
of Rama, when alone, the Sun-God had told him, his wings would 
grow again for flight. When he heard Hanuman speak of Jatayus 
as dead, he walked to where the Vanaras were holding their 
council and full of grief asked them how Jatayus had died. When 
Hanuman told him that he had died by the sword of Ravana, the 
great vulture king wept pathetically and asked him why they 
had fought with each other. But when Hanuman replied that h» 

1 Devotion. 2 TV ii 49. 


fell while trying to rescue Sita while she was being carried off 
by Ravana, the grief of Sampati was turned to joy, and he 

' Thrice blessed is my brother, O son of Truth, 
Who gave his life in cause of holy Ram ! 
If in defence of Rama's spouse my brother 
Was killed, how can we say, he died ? He has 
Attained immortal fame, and life that knows 
No death. When he did earn the love of Ram, 
Who's great as Righteousness itself, he earned 
A glory that does rarely come to men, 
Or gods. What matters now if he is dead ? 
What joy is greater than what is now his ? ' 1 

He then desired the Vanara heroes to repeat in chorus with 
devotion the name of Rama. They repeated ; when lo, his wings> 
grew to their original size and strength. He told them the 
Daedalus-Icarus-like story of himself and his brother, how in the 
pride of their youth and strength they rose sheer into the sky to. 
explore the Svarga, how the Sun-God grew wroth at their 
presumption and concentrated his rays upon them, how in order 
to save his younger brother Jatayus he, Sampati, flew over and 
protected him from the burning rays while his own wings were 
being singed and burnt, and how the Sun-God at length took pity 
on him and blessed him saying that his wings would grow when 
the Vanaras, who would in due course of ages come in search of 
Sita, would repeat the holy name of Rama in his hearing. After 
thus detailing to them the story of himself and Jatayus, Sampati 
told them that he had actually seen Ravana carrying away Sita in 
his chariot, and that she was at the moment actually in Lanka, 
beyond the sea. He then spoke to them of the dangers of the 
deep and the prowess of Ravana, and suggested to them that one. 
of them might try, if possible, to cross over to Lanka and ascertain 
everything ; and if that should not be possible they should return 
to give the information to Rama. So saying, he spread his wings 
for flight and flew away to assume the guardianship of the 
Vultures now left without a king by the death of Jatayus. 

When Hanuman saw the Vulture's wings, singed ages before, 
grow by the mere hearing of Rama's name, Hanuman's belief in 
Rama's divinity increased a hundredfold, and required only the 

1 IV xiii 43-45. 

H A N U M A N 199 

sight of Sita at her bowery prison to become absolute. So much 
so that when after seeing Sita, and after destroying the Rakshasas 
whom he had provoked, he was captured by Indrajit and was 
brought before Havana, and Ravana asked him, 

' Art thou Narayana, or wielder fierce 

Of the thunderbolt, 1 or he of the triple lance ? 2 

Or Brahma ? Or the cobra bearing high 3 

The earth ? 

Thou must be one of them in disguise come ! ' 4 

Hanuman replied without hesitating : 

' I'm none of those that thou hast named e'en now : 

Nor do I serve such puny beings as these. 

Know me as messenger of Him whose eyes 

Are even as the blood- red lotus, who 

Stands pledged to save from bonds of ill and good 

Rishls and Gods, and e'en the Three Supreme . . . 

He is the God Supreme, th'- embodiment 

Of Dharm Itself, whose nature absolute 

Even the Vedas have not power to sound ; 

Who in the hoary ages past came down 

To save the elephant who called aloud 

' O Lord Supreme, I trust myself to thee ! ' 

Know that the Ultimate Cause that has no first 

Or last or middle, or time or measure that bounds, 

Has thrown away the lance and disk and pot 

And armed Itself with bow and murd'rous dart, 

And leaving sea and flower, and Silver Hill 

Has come to show itself in fair Ayodh.' 5 

What wonder is there that, believing as he does Rama to be 
the Supreme God, Hanuman should love and serve him as a 
devoted servant ? From the moment that he has decided for 
himself that Rama is God, Hanuman lives for him and him alone. 
He has no other interest in the world except the service of Rama. 
Rama's friends and relations are his own friends and relations, 
and Rama's enemies are his own foes. 

And when Rama blessed him with his love and affection, and 

1 Indra. 2 Shiva. 3 Adishesh. 

4 V xiii 70. 5 V xiii 74, 75, 79, 80. 


made it known to him, among other ways, by taking him apart 
(when the Vanaras were being commissioned to go in different 
directions in search of Sita) and entrusting to him his most 
intimate message to Sita, Hanuman's enthusiasm for Rama's 
service knew no bounds. So, as the reader will remember, he 
joyfully accompanied Angada to the Southern Ocean. 

The Vanaras were glad that they had obtained some reliable 
information from Sampati about the whereabouts of Sita. But 
' who could cross the sea and enter Lanka ? Nila and other leaders 
said that they had not the strength to attempt the feat. Angada 
said that he could by a supreme effort cross over to Lanka, but 
that he could not after that trust himself to recross the ocean 
back to the mainland. Jambhavan the Nestor of the Ramayana 
both in years and wisdom, excused himself saying that his feet 
had become too delicate for such superhuman efforts ever since 
they stumbled against the Meru mountain, the while he walked 
round the earth announcing by beat of drum the glories of the 
Lord on the day, ages before, that He measured the earth and 
heaven as Trivikrama. But he addressed Hanuman and reminded 
him thus of his prowess and his great qualities : 

' O thou whose days will longer last than life 

Of Brahm himself ! Thou art a scholar subtle 

And wise, of unsurpassed eloquence. 

The ~very God of Death doth tremble when 

Thy wrath is roused : such is thy strength renowned ! 

Nor fire, nor air, nor water can destroy, 

Nor weapons scathe thy mighty frame. And who 

Is there we can compare to thee ? For thou 

Alone can rival thyself. If thou spring 

From here, thou canst with ease alight upon 

The outer universe 

Thou canst expand and equal Meru mount 

In size : if thou desire, thou canst enter 

Within the space minute that doth divide 

One line of falling rain from its fellow .... 

Even if all the worlds do stand opposed 

Thou canst withstand their might, unknowing fear . . . 

Thou stand'st firm-based on justice, chastity, 

And truth — thy heart unagitated stands 

For ever free from thoughts of sex 

So cross the sea (thou hast the proper strength 

HA HUM AN 20i: 

And force t' achieve that dreaded task), and give 
Us back our lives, and earn for thyself fame, 
And for thy king the joy of pleasing Ram ! ' * 

Here, in the words of Jambhavan, we have all the noble traits 
of the Vanara enumerated by the poet. Hanuman's might and 
physical prowess are unequalled. The reader will call to mind 
his fights with Indrajit and Kumbhakarna which we have 
described in the chapters dealing with these Rakshasas and their 
battles. He will not also have forgotten how Hanuman flies over 
to Mount Meru from Lanka in order to bring the Sanjivi plant, 
and how he plucks the hill itself by the roots and carries it in his 
hand. The Hindu wrestler and gymnast even today meditates 
on him and his prowess, and sings his praises before he begins 
his daily exercises. Hanuman, again, is the eternal bachelor, 
preserving the strength of his body and the purity of his heart 
and chastity of mind for noble achievements and fame, and the 
service of his divine master. 

Hanuman did not speak about his prowess — he was, as it 
were, unconscious of it — till Jambhavan suggested to him that 
he was the only fit person to cross to Lanka and return with news 
of Sita. But when he heard the words of Jambhavan, already 
filled as he was with his unbounded enthusiasm for the service 
of Rama, he became conscious of his powers and thus proclaimed 
his determination and his confidence : 

' Do you command me to uproot the isle 
Of Lanka yonder, and place it 'fore you here ? 
Do you command me to destroy the brood 
Of sinful Rakshasas and fly to Ram 
With Sita freed ? Behold I will obey 
Your every hest. I'll cross the ocean stream 
Of a hundred yojans 2 with a single step, 
Ev'n as the Lord Trivikram strode the worlds ! 
And I will tame the wicked Rakshasas 
Though gods should fight upon their side. Each one 
Of you has got the force, within a trice 
To leap the oceans seven, subdue the worlds, 
\ And Sita lead to Ram, where'er she is 

Kept imprisoned. So who is blessed like me 

1 IV xvi 9-12, 14, 15, 19. 2 One yojan = 36 miles 3 furfgng^. 


Who am commissioned by such worthy heroes 

To do this task and show my skill to them. 

Ev'n if the ocean burst its bounds and stride 

Along with terrific roar t' engulf the worlds, 

E'en then, your blessings and my Ram's commands 

Would lift me up as wings on either flank, 

And I could fly across like Garud great ! 

So give me leave, O friends, and wait for me 

Upon this hill till I return, my task 

In yonder isle fulfilled.' * 

In Valmiki also Hanuman speaks of his own prowess after 
Jambhavan's encomium of himself. Griffith translates his speechi 
thus : 

' The Wing-God, Fire's eternal friend, 

Whose blasts the mountain summits rend, 

With boundless force that none may stay, 

Takes where he lists his viewless way. 

Sprung from that glorious father, I 

In power and speed with him may vie, 

A thousand times with airy leap 

Can circle loftiest Meru's steep : 

With my fierce arms can stir the sea, 

Till from their beds the waters fiee 

And rush at my command to drown 

This land with grove and tower and town. 

I through the fields of air can spring 

Far swifter than the feathered King, 

And leap before him as he flies 

On sounding pinions through the skies. 

I can pursue the Lord of Light 

Uprising from the eastern height, 

And reach him ere his course be sped 

With burning beams engarlanded. 

I will dry up the mighty main, 

Shatter the rocks and rend the plain. 

O'er earth and ocean will I bound ; 

And every flower that grows on ground, 

And bloom of climbing plants shall show 

. 1 IV Xiv 21-25. 

H A N U M A N 203- 

Strewn on the ground, the way I go, 

Bright as the lustrous path that lies 

Athwart the region of the skies. 

The Maithil lady will I find — 

Thus speaks mine own prophetic mind — 

And cast in hideous ruin down 

The shattered walls oj Lanka town.' 

Compare this speech with the words that Kamban has put 
in the mouth of Hanuman. Just one or two strokes of the brush, 
a softening of the colour here, a slight change of the colour 
there and behold Hanuman is changed in the hands of Kamban 
from a boasting Vanara into a hero, conscious of his strength of 
course, but free from the spirit of bravado. 

As Hanuman's search for Sita and his adventures in Lanka 
during and after the search show some of the best traits of his 
character, and are also the best and oftenest remembered of his 
exploits, we shall give Kamban's description of the same in some 

After taking leave of his companions, Hanuman climbed up to 
the highest peak of the Mahendra promontory, and stood like a 
pillar supporting the vault of the sky. Then poising himself for 
flight, with hands and tail outstretched in air, his neck drawn 
in, his legs bent, and his chest contracted, he pressed down his 
feet and rose sheer into the sky and clove through the air towards 
Lanka. After sundry adventures during the course of his flight, 
he sprang on the further shore and began to reconnoitre the 
environs of the capital. 1 

There, in Lanka, he saw every magnificence that could be 
imagined by man or god. The sky-reaching turrets of its very 
private houses, the height of its fort walls, the depth of its moat, 
its gold-plated chariots, and bejewelled elephants, its high-bred 
horses and proud warriors, its lancers and bow-men and knights 
of heavy armour, impressed Hanuman with the strength and power 
and prosperity of the Rakshasas. He saw the wondrous trees 
of heaven growing in the pleasure parks of the Rakshasas and the 
river of Svarga flowing by their house-gardens. He saw the court- 
beauties of Indra's Amaravati 2 serving as handmaids to the 

i Kamban's description of the flight of Hanuman across the sea is 
full of fancy, and lacks the grand simplicity and naturalness of Valmiki's. 
description of the same. But still it is rich with fine similes and is doner ' 
in le grand style. 

2 Capital of Indra's celestial empire. 


Rakshasis, and gods waiting upon the Rakshasas. And he saw 
the dancing and the singing, the playing and the sporting of 
Rakshasa beauties and Devadasis 1 to the delight of the Rakshasas 
in their homes and public halls. Seeing the magnificence of the 
mere outer city Hanuman exclaimed to himself : 

' If archers here are strong, the dancers seem 
More dangerous ; the pugilists surpass 
Them both, while swordsmen seem invincible. 
And when I see my Ram, what shall I say 
Of Karpanas and Dands and Bhindipals 2 ? ' 3 

His capacity to assume whatever shape he pleased stood 
Hanuman in good stead here. He contracted himself in size and 
approached the gateway of the fort. The sun had set, and 
Rakshasas were mounting guard armed with spear and lance, axe 
and pestle and bow, karpana and musundi, steel discus and clubs, 
.slings and noose and other weapons. 

' Where are the gods,' he said, ' or Asuras 

Who have the strength to force these gates ? If such 

Should be our foes, and such their grand defence, 

Can we for vict'ry hope when war begins ? 

It is not hard to cross the roaring sea : 

But sea of Rakshas arms to cross is not, 

I fear an easy task. If I relax 

Ever so little my wariness, I can't 

Return with task accomplished to my lord. 

And it will be a terrific war, when war 

Breaks out.' 4 

Avoiding the gateway, Hanuman jumped over the battlements 
and entered the city. Here he had need of all his coolness and 
resolution and strength, for the Argus-eyed Guardian-Spirit of 
Lanka, unconquered ever since the foundation of the state, opposed 
his further march, and advanced against him with fierce mien. 
Seeing however that he was a Vanara, she -called out to him to 
' leap back and fly from here '. But cogitating within himself 
whether it would be proper to kill a being which appeared to be 
female, he said to her, 

i Celestial maidens. 

2 Most probably battering rams and other artillery of ancient and 
"medieval times. 

3 V ii 41. 4 V ii 72, 73. 


'What harm is there if I just look 'round the city and 
satisfy my curiosity ? Thou seest I am but a poor monkey.' 1 
The spirit grew enraged at his want of prompt obedience 
and addressed him thus : 

' Say who art thou that dar'st to slight my word ? 
Even he who burned the flying towns of yore 2 
Would fear to tempt my anger thus. Think'st thou 
That Lanka is a place for curious mites 
To peep into an' explore ? ' So spoke the form 
And laughed. Han'man echoed the laugh, and fanned 
Her anger more. ' Who then art thou ? ' she roared ; 
' And say, for whom dost spy ? Thou wouldst not stir, 
It seems, till all thy life is shaken out 
Of thee.' Great Han'man smiled and quietly said, 
' I go not hence before I take a round 
In Lanka fort.' 3 

Seeing his nonchalance the spirit ransacked her brjstins to ■ 
guess who he might be. She thought within herself, 

He comes not on an honest errand. Sure 
A Vanar he is not : Even God of Death 
Would sink to earth when he encounters me. 
Who can he be ? He smiles as He who drank 
The ocean poison — Three-eyed Mahadev ! * 

And fearing danger for Lanka if he were not ended, she 
aimed at him her three-pointed lance, which came on him like a 
thunderbolt. But he caught it adroitly with his teeth as if in 
sport, and broke it into two as Garuda would break a cobra in 
mid-air. The Spirit was taken aback at seeing his force and skill, 
and then recovering herself rushed at him with other divine 
weapons. But Hanuman closed with her and wrested all of them 
from out of her hands before she could hurl them. So she struck 
him with her fists with such force that sparks of fire flew about 
at the stroke. Hanuman desired merely to punish her, while 
sparing her life as she bore a woman's form, and so he struck at 
her with but half his force. But she fell down vomiting blood. 

1 V ii 83. , , a Shiva, 

a V U 85. < V ii 88. 


And then, behold, from the prostrate form arose a Spirit divine 
and fell at Hanuman's feet. She told him that she was an inmate 
of Svarga, who had been cursed by Brahma for misbehaviour and 
sent down to earth to guard the city and site of Lanka, and that 
Brahma had promised to her at the moment of cursing her that 
the day that a monkey should knock her down here the curse 
would expire. And, 

' What was foretold in ages past,' she said, 
' Has come to be, for Virtue does triumph 
And sin does fail, when all is said and done. 
Enter therefore and do thy work : thou canst 
Achieve thy wish — what canst thou not achieve ? ' 1 

So saying she rose into the sky and sought her home in 
Svarga, while Hanuman entered the city without further trouble 
' even like a drop of acid for the milk of Rakshas power '. 

And what luxury did he not see in that island city which 
was adorned with the plunder of a hundred realms ? The gems 
inlaid on the turrets of the palaces converted night into very day. 
The Rakshasis could see their faces mirrored upon the crystal 
walls and the golden pavements of their palatial homes. The 
flooring of the stages in their theatres was made of burnished 
gold. It was the Deva damsels that danced and acted for the 
Rakshasas' pleasure. Rakshasis moved from place to place in 
vimanos canopied over with pearls. The daughters of Svarga 
sang for the Rakshasis, played on their divine instruments and 
delighted the Rakshasa couples with their soul-capturing music. 
Some Rakshasas and their wives were revelling in the luxuries 
of wine and love and delicate sensual delights. Even Devas and 
Rishis were singing the praises of the Rakshasas and blessing 
them — such was their fear for the name of Rakshasa. 

Hanuman went on searching everywhere for Sita, entering 
through chinks and key-holes and windows and taking every shape 
convenient for the time being. After long searching without 
encountering any notability, he entered a huge hall adorned with 
tj|e- trophies taken from the realms of Indra — Indra's own lustrous- 
jewelled crown, inlaid in the vast canopy, scattering the darkness 
-of the night to the very ends of the earth. He saw the gigantic 

1 V ii 95. 

H A N U M A N 207 

•form of a Rakshasa sleeping there like Adishesh 1 or like a 
veritable heaving ocean. 

The form was dark even as if all the darkness of the world 
had been concentrated in one place, and as if all that there is of 
sin in the universe had taken fleshly shape. The Devadasis — 
maids of heaven — were pressing his feet. His breathing was like 
the whirlwind awaiting the Day of Dissolution to blow everything 
into atoms. And he • looked in his sleep like a huge cobra 
mesmerized by the wizard's spell, or like the ocean reserving its 
all-destroying force for the Day of Final Dissolution. It was only 
from the single head of the Rakshasa that Hanuman corrected 
his first impression that he might be Ravana himself, and inferred 
that he might be his famous brother Kumbhakarna ; and so he 
subdued his rising wrath and passed on. 

After entering and searching several other palaces, he saw 
Vibhishana sleeping on his bed in his home. He saw his noble 
face, and thought that Dharma itself had taken shape and was 
living in a Rakshasa body in order to escape detection and 
destruction at the hands of the wicked Rakshasas of Lanka. He 
did not see Sita there and passed on. After some more searchings 
he came before the citadel within which Indra had been kept 
imprisoned. He entered and saw Rakshasas with fierce weapons 
and fiercer aspect guarding the gates and courts. He who could 
by his magic pass through even chinks which smoke cannot enter, 
went in and saw Indrajit reposing in sleep like a lion. Seeing 
the heroism and valour shining in his manly face, he thought 
within himself, 

1 Is he the Rakshas king or Kartikey, 2 
The son of Mahadeva, God of gods ? 
He looks a lion sleeping in his den. 
A terrific fight I see in the days to come 
When Lakshmana and Ram encounter him. 
With such a hero to conduct his wars, 
Where is the wonder that Visrava's son 3 
Is, master of the universe ? Except 
Vishnu or Brahm or Shiv, can any face 
This Rakshasa upon the field ? ' * 

i The huge thousand-hooded divine cobra bearing the earth on its 

2 Son of Shiva, so called because six heavenly maidens from the 
constellation Kartik (Pleiades) were his nursemaids. 

3 Ravana. * V ii 141, 142. 


So saying he passed, and crossing another moat he was before 
another citadel. He jumped over its walls, and there, behold, 
a more magnificent sight than had hitherto attracted his eyes 
unrolled itself before his vision. Every building was like a palace 
of Wonderland- Diamonds and emeralds, sapphires and rubies, 
moonstones andh&ett's-eyes, made the night shine with tenfold more 
brilliance than day. Women of perfect beauty were in all stages 
and postures of sleep and repose, and dalliance and sport, Many 
.were pining for the love of Ravana who had forgotten all his 
dames after he had conceived his passion for Sita. Vina * and 
mridanga 2 , and the sweet voices of the beauties of heaven 
entranced some, inflamed the passions in the hearts of others, and 
saddened yet others by calling up memories of their absent lovers. 
There were dicers playing on golden boards, betting garlands of 
pearls and the crown jewels of conquered kings. There were 
Rakshasa beauties dancing and singing sensual songs forgetting 

But in none of these palaces did he find the object of his 
search. At length he entered the superb palace which belonged 
to Mandodari, the wife of Ravana. There she lay a queen among 
beauties, her feet pressed by Menaka and Rambha, Tillottama 
and Urvasi, 3 the deer-tail fans softly waving over her reposing 
form, the god of soft breezes himself regulating to a nicety the 
amount of cool air that must be allowed to touch her delicate 
body. Seeing her glorious form, unequalled by any that he had 
anywhere seen, throwing into the shade by the brilliance of its 
beauty even the dazzling gems that adorned her apartments, 

There crossed a thought in Han'man's mind that she 

Might be his Rama's spouse. The thought consumed 

Like flaming fire his limbs and heart and soul, 

And thus he spoke within himself : ' Ah me, 

In vain has been my huge gigantic size 

And more than mortal power. But die that thought ! 

If she who sleeps o'er there should hap to be 

Sita — her virtue trodden underfoot 

And bond of love and chastity undone — 

With this day ends th' unsullied honour of Ram. 

l The most melodious of Indian musical instrumehts. K has four 

or seven strings and countless stops. 

a The soft-sounding drum. •• 

3 Famed beauties; and danseuses of the court of Indra, the king of 

the Devas. 

H A N U M A N 209 

But shall it end alone ? No, no ! with it 
Shall end this town with all her Rakshasas, 
And after I have killed them all, I will 
My own accursed life straightway destroy ! ' x 

So saying he looked at her once again, and seeing that her 
lineaments were not human he said to himself, 

' She looks not human, but seems a Danava 2 
Or Yaksha 3 dame. Ah woe is me that I 
Could entertain this sinful thought ! For can 
A woman who has looked on Ram as Lord 
E'er cast her eyes upon another being 
Though he were Manmatha himself ? ' 4 

And now taking a nearer view of the Asuri, the great Vanara, 
who was an expert also in the science of face- reading, concluded 
thus : 

' Though on her person are not wanting signs 

Of luck, I find her days of prosperity 

Are o'er. She looks as if she is alarmed 

In dream : she stutters forth some words in fear : 

This doth forebode her widowhood ; and ruin, 

I see, doth hang o'er this extensive fort.' 5 

So saying he left the abode of Mandodari and entered the 
magnificent palace of Ravana. As he entered, the earth trembled, 
the right eyes and brows and limbs of the Rakshasis sleeping or 
serving therein quivered ; a shudder passed through the firmament 
to the farthest bounds of the earth ; the clouds thundered without 
lightning ; and the pots containing sacrificial water burst. 
Hanuman's prophetic eyes saw the impending fate of all this 
splendour, and 

His heart was moved, and he exclaimed, ' Alas, 
A few days more, and there'll be nothing left 
Of all this matchless splendour ! For be he 
Who he may, every one must reap or good 
Or ill, as he has sown ! And who can 'scape 
The rigour of this law ? ' * 

l V ii 199, 200. 2 & 3 Clans of Asuras. 

4 v ii 201. 5 v ii 202. 6 V ii 205. 



Inside the palace he saw Ravana sleeping on a faultlessly- 
white silver bed of vast expanse. With his huge body of many 
heads and hands he looked like a black ocean scattering gems 
and gold, with its innumerable waves reposing on another sea, 
the Sea of Milk ; or like the great Man-Lion with his innumerable 
heads and hands and sun-bright crowns reposing in the cave of 
the golden Meru after destroying Hiranyakashipu.. Though a 
• thousand maids of heaven were waving their golden-handled 
fans of deer-tail, and the coolest of cool breezes was playing over 
him, the thought of Sita disturbing his heart even in sleep was 
wearing his life away inch by inch. The breeze that was waving 
over the sandal paste on his body, instead of cooling him, served 
only to fan the flame of his passion. His very soul having fled to 
where Sita was kept imprisoned, his dark and empty heart was 
even like an earth-hole which its cobra inmate had abandoned. 
His bed of silver was white-hot, and the flowers over his person 
burned to ashes even with the bees inside them — such was the 
burning heat of the passion in his heart. 

A brilliant smile was now stealing over Ravana's face as he 
was dreaming that Sita had entered his chamber. When Hanuman 
saw the Rakshasa thus reposing without repose, his heart was 
agitated with a volcanic rage, eyes shot fire, and heaven and 
earth split to pieces at his frown. And he cogitated within 
himself : 

' Of what avail is all my strength, and what 
Will people say of me, if the jewelled crowns 
Of him who stole the lovely spouse of Ram 
I kick not down, nor break his serried heads ? 
And what will be my service worth if, him 
Encountered, I my valour fail to show ? 
My service should be real — not vain pretence. 
Shall he with life escape e'en when I've seen 
Him here ? Let me but kick his crowned heads 
And break his branching arms, and end this town ; 
I care not, what befalleth me thereafter ! ' 1 

So saying he ground his teeth and clenched his fists for action. 
But immediately he began to reason within himself whether this 
was the right thing to do ; and after considering more coolly, he 

1 V ii 219, 220. 


decided that it was not proper for him to use force at that 
moment. He said to himself : 

' I have not executed yet my lord's 

Commands : it is not wise to turn aside 

From present work unfinished and to run 

After enterprises new and strange. And now, 

To think of it, if I had acted rash 

Qh th' impulse, grievous would have been the fault ! ' 1 

"Kamban moralises in a grand stanza on the self-control of 
Hanuman. He says, 

' Though mighty as the Shulin 2 who could drink 
The boiling ocean poison at a draught, 
Will ev'r the wise launch on an enterprise 
Difficult without deliberation due ? 
Hanuman stayed his hand, e'en as the deep, 
Which, though it can o'erwhelm the earth, yet bides 
Its time and keeps itself within its bounds.' 3 

A deeper reason also prevented Hanuman from then and there 
■waking Ravana and fighting him. He thought, 

Let me restrain this rage, for overshadowed 
Will be the fame of Ram, if a Vanar low 
Should end the wicked one who stole his spouse 
And keeps her in captivity. 4 

Ravana's features and condition relieved him completely with 
respect to one matter. The reader will remember the suspicion 
that rose in his mind when he saw Mandodari. Now that he 
had seen Ravana exhibiting all the signs of unrequited passion, 
the burden was lifted from off his heart completely, and he 
carried himself out from the presence of Ravana on the wings of 
the happy thought that Sita was safe from his sacrilegious touch. 

But as he came out of Ravana's palace he saw that all likely 
.and unlikely places in Lanka had been searched by him and yet 

i V ii 221. 

2 He of 'the three pronged lance — Shiva. 

3 V ii -222. 4 V ii 223. 


he had not seen Sita. So he fell into a despairing mood and: 
soliloquised thus : 

' Alas, that jewelled one is not in this 
Extensive fort. Has he, perchance, killed her 
Because she would not yield her charms to him ? 
Or has he eat her in his wicked rage ? 
Or haply does he hold her captive close 
In another world ? I know not what to think 
Or where to search for her ? What shall I say 
To Ram when I return from here ? I fear 
My sorrows will not end unless with life. 

4 Kakutstha 1 would be thinking I would bring 
A message from his Sita : while my lord 
Sugriv would ev'n expect that I'd return 
Accompanied by Sita freed : and this 
Is what I've done : Can I at all return 
To Ram, success achieved i' th' task that I 
Have undertook ? Or shall I have to end 
My life with those that I have left upon 
The continent to wait for my return ? . . . . 

' O'er all these seven hundred yojanas 2 
Of land, there's not a living thing that I 
Have missed, and yet I have not seen the spouse 
Of Rama : having crossed the ocean stream, 
Am I to sink beneath this sea of grief ? 
Shall I yon Ravan ply with blows, and force 
Him to discover Sita ? Or shall I 
Burn down this city with its wicked king ? 
I may the Devas ask : but how can they 
Reply, when they with terror die at sight 
Of Rakshas arms ? Who else will me direct ? . . . 

' ' Sampati, king of Vultures said he saw 

That lovely one in Lanka ; e'en his words 
Are falsified ! Shall I not even now 
Destroy myself ? But shall I die without 
Even revenge ? For there is not a doubt 
That Ravana did steal our Sita fair ; 
I may not die therefore, before I lift 
This citadel and cast it in the sea.' 3 

l Rama. * 36 miles 3 furlongs, 

a V il 225-227, 229-233. 


But he still walked on to see if he had by chance missed 
seeing any spot, and as luck would have it, he espied a grove 
of Ashoka trees which he had not visited so far. And determining 
within himself that if he should not see Sita there he would 
destroy Lanka, he entered it. As he entered, the gods rained 
showers of flowery rain over him, for Sita was placed by the 
Rakshasa in that lovely garden. 

There in the midst of black-skinned Rakshasis, 
Seated as a flash of lightning in the bosom 
Of a sable cloud, he saw the sun-flower bright 
That smiles alone to the light of Kaustubha — 
The brilliant sun-like gem on Rama's breast. * 

He doubted not but that she must be Sita — she was like a 
swan floating on the stream of tears flooding down her cheeks. 
-He became intoxicated with joy at sight of her holy grief, and 

' Dharma yet lives, and I will seek no more 

My death ! For I have searched, and lo, the Lord 

Has blest these eyes with sight of Holy Sita .... 

The wicked tyrant of the universe 

Has wrought this guile for his own destined doom ; 

For Ram is none but Vishnu come to earth, 

And Sita, Lakshmi of the lotus throne ! 

' She looks a gem laid o'er with dirt ; she's like 
The moon, her rays by sunlight dulled ; her hair 
Has lost its gloss. But lo, (the Lord be blest !) 
Her virtue stands intact : who can set bounds 
To strength that Dharma gives to mortal life ? 
Whom shall I praise for this grand conquest o'er 
Such great temptation ? Shall I praise the valour 
Of Ram ? Or the grandeur of her hero-soul ? 
The gods are free from blame, and Brahmans true, 
And Dharma firm-established stands ; hence, what 
Is there impossible for me ? And I 
Have not in vain the ocean crossed for Ram. 
If Sita should from highest self-control 

1 V iii 63. 


Have fallen even by the breadth of an hair, 

I feared Ram's wrath would clean deluge the world. 

That fear now is gone, and earth is now 

For ev'r immune from ill. For what are they 

Who live 'mid fire or kill their appetites 

Or practise other austerities besides, 

When placed beside the fire of Sita's soul ? 

Sita, behold, has given a lustre new 

To womanhood and chastity by the life 

That she is leading in this Lanka proud.' * 

The thought of Rama suddenly comes to him and he pities- 
him for not having the good fortune to see how Sita is living in 1 
the midst of so much allurement and force and fear. He says, 

' What pity, 'tis not given to Ram to see 

With his own eyes this holy one, as she 

Does lead her life austere in Lanka's grove ! ' 2 

And then he continues and concludes thus his soliloquy : 

' Was it the spirit of Dharm protected her ? 

Or was it Jan'ka's virtuous deeds did fence 

Her body 'round from touch of ill ? Or does 

She owe her chastity and life to her 

Own steadfast soul ? Can my wonder ever cease ? 

And who has fought temptation like to her ? 

And when I speak of her to comrades mine 

Can ev'er I tire of praising her holy life ? 

And what temptation ? All the dazzling splendours 

Of Rakshas power were there to tempt her heart, 

While Ravan's lawless might was there to force 

Her body : and gods are serving him both night 

And day. Who could withstand such snares ? And yet 

She won. Now vanished are all obstacles ! 

In sooth, can Sin o'er Virtue e'er prevail ? ' 3 

The reader will agree after reading the above that Kamban 
has risen to the highest ideals of loyalty to a heroic master and 
of love of Dharma in this soliloquy of Hanuman. How enthusiastic- 

1 V iii 65, 67-71, 73. 2 V iii 73. 3 v in 75, 76. 


Hanuman becomes when he sees the perfect virtue of Sita ! He 
cannot tire of her praises or of the enumeration of the temptations 
that she has overcome. A new strength has now filled his heart — 
the strength that comes to man when he sees a grand soul that 
had opportunities of falling but stands serene and triumphant — 
and he exclaims, ' what is there impossible for me now ? ' 

As he was in the midst of these reflections, Ravana who had 
awakened from his disturbed sleep came in state to see Sita, and, 
in spite of the fruitlessness of his previous attempts, to again try 
to persuade her to accept himself as her lover. 

As we propose to give large extracts from this interview in 
the chapters dealing with Ravana and Sita we pass it over here. 

As Ravana went away spurned by Sita, he ordered the 
Rakshasi guards of her prison to threaten her in every manner 
possible and make her yield herself early. They abused her, 
therefore, and taunted her, and threatened her with their cruel 
weapons. But Trijata, the daughter of Vibhishana, checked them 
and consoled Sita. The Rakshasis held their tongue ; and 
thinking that this was the proper time to make himself known to 
Sita, Hanuman pronounced some spells which made them go to 
sleep on the instant. As he was thinking, however, as to how he 
should approach her and what he should speak to her, the threats 
and taunts of the Rakshasis which had burned into her heart 
drove her to despair, and seeing the Rakshasis sinking to sleep 
Sita began to lament her fate. What with the Rakshasa's words 
and the threats of the Rakshasis, her despair had become so 
intense that she doubted the very love of her husband. Her 
lamentations were in this strain : 

" I have been living all these days upon 

The hope of seeing my Lord, and so I've been 

Bearing with patience all the ills that came 

On me. But, sooth, will he admit again, 

One who has lived so long in this sinful land ? 

I see a stranger look with lust on me, 

I swallow every word with which he fills 

My ears, and yet I choose not death : is there 

A Rakshasi more wicked than myself ? 

Dishonour now has lighted on my name 

And can't be warded off : where is the chaste 

In story or in life who has loved her life' 

When forced away from home by lustful men ? 


Is not my honour great, and modesty, 

Who cling e'en now to life ? . . . . 

I must have sought my death the moment when 

Disgrace did come on me : do I expect 

To open a path for me to heaven, that I 

Extinguish not my life though stained with shame ? 

I sent my Lord to hunt for me the deer 

That came as bait, and on his trace I forced 

My Lakshman good, with many an insult heaped, 

Against his will ; and lo, the Rakshasa 

Has parted me from Ram and brought me here 

To this accursed town. Can e'er the earth 

Hold me if even after this my life 

I do not end ? 

And shall I live to have the finger of scorn 

Pointed at me by women chaste and pure 

As one who parted from her Lord and lived 

In Rakshas lands ? And then, ah wretched me ! 

When Ram shall have destroyed this race for e'er 

And freed me from my prison, how shall I prove 

My virtue uncorrupt, if he should say, 

' Away, thou art now worthy of my love ' ? " 1 

What hope will there be left except death for a woman who 
has worked herself up to think like this ? So she concluded : 

' So death alone is Dharma's way for me. 
And lo, the little merit I have earned 
Has sent the guardians of my body fast 
Asleep. And where can I a better place 
Discover to cast my life away ? ' 2 

So saying, she stepped towards a bower of jasmine creepers. 
But before she had walked many steps Hanuman presented himself 
before her, his heart agitated with grief and joy ; and saluting 
her with joined hands, he addressed her saying, 

' Behold me, mother, I am the messenger of thy Rama. 
Numberless are the Vanaras scattered the world over to look 
for thee, but as a result of my austerities in the past I have 
the unique fortune of setting my eyes upon thy feet. Though 
lamenting deep thy loss, Rama knows not where thou art, for 

1 V v 11-13, 15, 17, 19, 20. 2 v v 21. 


if he knew thinkest thou that the Rakshasa race would not 
have been uprooted till now ? Doubt me not, O thou who 
art pure as the sacrificial lamp, for I shall tell thee about 
matters that Rama alone can know.' ' 

After some hesitation Sita decided that he could not be a 
Rakshasa in disguise, and that he might be a Rishi or a god as his 
thoughts and words looked pure. And then saying to herself, 

' What matters it if he a Rakshasa be 

Or god, or Vanar king ? And let him come 

With violence in his thoughts or ruth : he melts 

My heart pronouncing soft my lord his name, 

And sheds a ray of light in th' utter dark 

Of my soul ; is life a dearer gift ? My heart 

Goes out to him : his words are choice, and free 

From guile : and tears flow free from his love-filled eyes 

While he does sob aloud : I'll therefore speak 

To him,' 2 

she asked him who he was. 

These words of Sita impress upon the imagination of the 
reader the devotion of Hanuman for Rama and all that belong 
to him, and his tenderness towards the helpless. By these few 
words, again the poet introduces to us as if without any art, the 
beginnings of the devotion of Hanuman for Sita and the grateful 
and tender affection of Sita for Hanuman which characterise 
their feelings towards each other in the future as the events unroll 

Hanuman gave her his name and told her the story of the 
death of Vali and the coronation of Sugriva, and of the sending 
of millions of Vanaras all over the earth to look for her. Look 
at his generous praise of his fellows of whom he says, 

' Each one of them can lift the earth on high 
And cross the ocean stream.' 3 

And now he speaks of Rama ! 

' And from the spot at which, thy jewels bright 
Were found by us, thy Lord wist thou 

l V v 22-25. 2 v v 27, 28. 

3 V v 32. 


Must have been carried towards the south; and so 
He took me 'part, and did entrust me, mother, 
With a message for thine ear : his love, can it 
E'er go in vain ? ' 1 

He continued, 

' And then, what can I say 
Of how he felt when he was shown those jewels ? 
Weren't they giver of life to him ? Believe 
My word, O mother, it was those jewels thou 
Hadst thrown behind thee saved thy mangal 2 string 
Intact ! ' 3 

Hanuman then concluded saying that Angada had come to 
the further shore at the command of Rama, and that he himself 
had crossed the sea at the bidding of Angada to look for her in 

The stanza in which Kamban describes the feelings of Sita 
when Hanuman finished his story is full of the highest pathos, 
but is very difficult of complete rendering into English. He says, 

He ended : joy ineffable did fill 

Her breast — her dried up limbs did swell with life 

New found ; and as the tears flowed freely from 

Her eyes, from her reviving lips a cry 

Escaped, ' Is life, in sooth, come back to me ? ' 

And then she said to Hanuman, ' O Sire, 

Wouldst thou describe to me my Lord his form ? ' 4 

Hanuman's description of Rama's person is done only in the 
conventional style. But if Kamban now and then submits to the 
conventions of the rhetoricians of his time, it is only for a time. 
JFor before he goes very far, he spreads his wings for flight and' 
rises again to the highest regions of poetry. Thus after Hanuman's 

i V v 34. 

2 The mangal string is the string on which the sacremental jewel 
called mangalya is strung. It is tied round the neck of the bride at the 
lime of the marriage. It is only at the death of the husband that the 
string can be untied or cut. Hanuman means that but for the sight of 
her jewels Rama would have died of his grief for Sita, and that Rama's 
seeing them alone saved her from widowhood. 
3 V v 35. 4 v v 37. 

-RX"N1J-M.K-N mis- 

description of Rama's physical appearance, the poet describes 
Sita's condition and Hanuman's further speech in these words : 

Ev'n as a piece of wax when put in fire, 

The heart of Sita melted away as he 

Described to her Rama's manly form. He feli 

Again at her feet, and said, " O mother, deign 

To list to words that Rama bid me say 

To make thee trust in me : ' Recall to her ' 

Said he, ' that when I prayed her to remain 

At home and serve my mothers, as forest paths 

Were thorny, wild, and steep, her eyes grew red, 

And with a cloth of bark put on, she came 

And stood beside me. Tell her on the day 

That we for the jungle started, hardly had 

We passed the city-gates when she did ask, 

' Where is the forest, dear ? ' Again remind 

Her,' said thy Ram, ' that when Sumantra x left 

Us on the forest bounds, she clean forgot 

Her grief and sent a message to her birds 

And parrots left at home ! ' " He ceased, and then 

Thinking that he had said enough, he showed 

To her the ring on which her Rama's name 

Was carved. 2 

We shall refer the reader to chapter XV for a description of ' 
the effect that the sight and touch of the ring wrought upon Sita. 
The ring finally dispelled all her doubts and suspicions and a new 
hope now entered her heart. She blessed Hanuman for thus 
saving her life with the message of Rama. She then learned from 
him all that had taken place after she was parted from Rama. 
When Hanuman, however, said that he crossed the ocean from the 
mainland to Lanka, she found it hard to believe it. She, therefore, 
asked him how he could cross the sea without a boat. He said : 

' Just as those, mother, who meditate on the holy feet 
of thy Lord cross the endless ocean of Illusion, even so I 
crossed the black ocean stream with my feet.' 3 
But as this did not satisfy her, he showed to her his Vishvarupa 
— the gigantic, world-filling form in which he flew across the sea. - 
Says the poet : 

l the charioteer. 
2 V v 59-62. 3 y v 97. 


Saluting her still with his joined hands, he grew in size 
till his head almost touched the roof of heaven and he bent 
himself for fear lest his head should actually strike against 
it. The gods wondered when they saw that universe- 
pervading form, whether absolute power belongs to elements 
five that compose the world or to Hanuman alone. The stars 
in the heaven looked like fire-flies hanging to his hairs — 
so high he stood and so huge he looked ! Eyes could not 
take in his size nor the mind conceive his form ; one could 
not ascertain which were the sun and the moon and which 

the ear-rings shining in his ears And in that form 

he could see with his own lotus eyes the eyes of gods and 
men looking to him for their protection and safety from 
Rakshasa violence. 1 

When Sita saw the Vishvarupa of Hanuman she felt that, 
with such an ally as he, Rama could destroy the Rakshasas with 
ease. But while on the one hand she was satisfied with the 
exhibition of Hanuman's strength and might, on the other hand 
she could not bear without a sense of fear the sight of that 
world-pervading form ; and so she prayed him to resume his 
original shape. Hanuman obeyed her, and when he stood before 
her as an ordinary normal Vanara, she sang his praises thus : 

' 'T were little if I say thou canst the earth 

Uproot, and lift her with her stable hill, 

Or take the hooded snake that bears the world 

Aloft and make of it a plaything light 

In thy hand ! Thou hast the strength of the raging storm : 

Is it a praise indeed to say that thou 

Didst cross the sea that does not hide its head 

In shame ? Thy single prowess will suffice, 

long-armed hero, to extend the fame 

Of Rama and his grace, and make them live 
For untold ages green in the minds of men. 
What pity Lanka's isle is not beyond 
The oceans seven, for to demand of thee 
The exercise in full of all thy might ! . . . 
Whenev'r I thought of Rakshas might and power 

1 used to fear that Ram had none besides 

To help him but his brother : but now that fear 

i V v 100-302, 104. 


Has left me quite, for what is Rakshas might 
When he has such a hero for ally ? ' l 

All trace of her despair and grief had now left her soul. She 
felt herself free of all care and even full of joy. She therefore 

' Even if death does come to me, I can 
Now pass away in peace, for even now 
I feel as if I'm from this loathsome prison 
Released. And lo, I shall be soon avenged 
Upon the cruel Rakshas who must fall 
With all his race destroyed. And what do I 
Desire now more ? My Lord his holy feet 
Have now adorned my head and Glory 'gins 
To shed her light on me, and no disgrace 
Will ev'r attach itself to Sita's name ! ' 2 

Thi large soul of Hanuman, however, is not elated at her 
praises. His reply is full of modesty and the praise of his 
companions and his leader. He says, 

' O thou, chaste as Arundhati, 3 more numerous than the 
sands of the sea are the Vanara leaders who serve Rama. I 
am but a humble servant of those mighty chiefs, obeying the 
commands that they lay upon me. Seventy Vahinis* is the 
total of our Vanar force. Is this ocean large enough for them 
even if they set themselves to drink each but one handful 
of water from it ? It is because he did not know the 
whereabouts of this Lanka that it is still undestroyed. Can 
it long remain on its foundations now that we have seen it ? 
Vali's brother is there and Vali's son, and Mainda and Tumind 
and the fierce Kumuda.' 5 

Hanuman gives an impressive list of the Vanara leaders and 

' They can lift this earth and even the other worlds from 
their foundations. And they are as obedient to Rama's will 
as his very arrows. What are these Rakshasas to them ? ' 6 

i V v 109, 110, 112. 2 v v 113. 

3 The wife of Vashistha and the ideal of chastity. 

* Armies. In the latter-day world of mere men, this term meant a 
detachment of an army consisting of 81 elephants, as many chariots, 243 
horse and 405 foot. Some put it at three times this figure. But here 
the term obviously stands for very very much more. 

5 V v 114-116. 6 v v 117. 


After saying everything calculated to give her hope and 
courage, Hanuman told her that he would like to carry her on 
his shoulders and place her at the feet of Rama. But her innate 
sense of delicacy would not let her consent to it and she only sent 
instead a pathetic message to Rama through him. She accom- 
panied the message with her head-ornament which she desired 
him to give to Rama as a pledge of her affection and her trust 
in him. 

At last walking round her in devotional homage Hanuman 
took leave of her and walked away. But once again alone, he 
wanted to leave a memorial of his visit to Lanka, and after some 
thought he decided to destroy the grove and provoke a quarrel 
with the Rakshasas and put his prowess to the best use in Rama's 
cause. Things happened as he wished, for the mischief that he 
committed in the grove was bruited abroad and Rakshasa after 
Rakshasa, and army after army were despatched against him by 
Ravana. But not one Rakshasa returned alive even to tell the 
story of the fate of the armies. At length even Aksha, the son of 
Ravana, was crushed to death by the mighty paw of Hanuman. 
The reader will remember how Indrajit chid his father for not 
measuring earlier the strength of the Vanara and thus having been 
the cause of the death of his own son. 

When at length Indrajit came with his big army against him, 
Hanuman was not terrified, but on the contrary was glad to meet 
such a famous foe. He thought within himself in this wise when 
- he came in sight : 

The prowess I have shown in killing some 

Of these heroic Rakshasas has had 

Its quick effect ; for here I see the foe 

Of Indra coming on. It matters not 

If now I fall or conquer him, for great 

Will be the fame in either case. If I 

Succeeded in killing him, 'twill be as if 

Ravan himself has fallen crushed beneath 

My arm. And he would know his end is come, 

And send our Sita back ; while Rakshas pride 

Would lick the dust, and Indra'd come again 

Into his own. 1 

'■ Hanuman scattered and destroyed Indrajit's forces, and at 
length engaged with Indrajit himself. Hanuman fought with the 

1 V xii 25-27. 


•branches of trees while the Rakshas assaulted him with his arrows. 
The fight continued for long and Indra jit's bow itself was broken 
by Hanuman. At last seeing no other way to end Hanuman, 
Indrajit sent the Brahmastra against him, and it bound his limbs 
and made him prisoner. Although the Brahmastra is the most 
shattering weapon known to the heroic armoury, Hanuman had 
been granted the blessing of invulnerability against it by Brahma 
himself in former times, and so he was merely overpowered by 
the weapon and not killed. 1 

He was dragged by the Rakshasas and Rakshasis in his 
temporarily helpless state and placed before Ravana by Indrajit. 
Ravana was sitting in state surrounded by his ministers and 
courtiers and musicians and dancers, and when Hanuman was 
brought before him his very sight angered Hanuman as the sight 
of the cobra would rouse the wrath of the eagle. His first impulse 
was to break asunder the noose that was still holding him in its 
bonds and spring upon Ravana. He thus revolved the matter in 
his mind : 

' When on his bed I saw him sleep, I thought 

It was not just to kill him unawares : 

Now that my luck had made him sit upon 

His throne, I shall not further think, but shall 

Now fall on him, and felling down his heads 

Shall free our Sita, and take her back to Ram. 

If in the presence of Gods and Danavas, 

Who guard in terror Sita's bowery prison, 

I do not clip his crowned heads, what'll be 

The worth of all my courage and my might ? . . . 

'Twill be a shame if after seeing him — 

The chance of a full life-time — I do return 

With only words exchanged with the Rakshas king. 

I need not even conquer him : I'll have 

Renown if ev'n I die in fight engaged 

With him.' 2 

But presently he grew more collected and looked at the 
situation in a different light. Now he argued within himself in 
this wise : 

i Brahma's blessing also limited the bondage ts an hour and a half. 
2 V xiii 56, 57, 59. 


' He looks too strong for me to kill — his power 

Does forbid hopes of easy victory. y,V 

And can a mortal triumph over him 

But Ram ? He cannot conquer me if fight 

Begins, nor can I hope to bring him down. 

And days unending will elapse without 

Success : so wisdom rules against a fight. 

And has not Rama sworn that he would lop 

Himself the serried heads and branching arms 

Of Ravana and free the world of fear ? 

And Sita's oath does stand that she would end 

Her life, if Ram does not within a month 

Invade these realms in force : I shouldn't therefore 

Engage in doubtful fight, and waste my time. 

So I shall stand before the Rakshasa 

As carrier of the message of my King.' 1 

So Hanuman took upon himself the job of ambassador and 
waited to be questioned by the Rakshasa. We have extracted 
Ravana's questions and Hanuman's answer in the first pages of 
this chapter. After saying that he was serving Rama, Hanuman 
assumed to speak on behalf of his own king Sugriva and advised 
Ravana to send back Sita to Rama and save himself. Ravana 
only grew indignant at his presumption and ordered his attendants 
to kill him. But Vibhishana interfered and dissuaded Ravana 
from putting him to death saying that a messenger sent by a 
king should never be killed. Ravana agreed not to kill him but 
desired to give him some punishment, and so he directed that 
his tail should be tied round with cloth and all sorts of 
combustibles, and set on fire. 

Sita when she heard of it trembled for Hanuman's safety and 
prayed to the God of Fire not to burn him, and lo, though the 
fire played all about him, enveloping him in flames, Hanuman 
felt cool upto the very marrow of his bones ! 

When Ravana desired to punish Hanuman, he counted without 
his host. For as soon as his tail was on fire, Hanuman freed 
himself by force from the guards that were holding him on either 
side, and jumped about the whole city flourishing his tail in every 
direction. The whole of Lanka was soon in flames. All that was 
made of silver and gold in the city erected by the hand of the 
heavenly architect melted in the flames. Groves and parks and 

1 V xiii 61-65. 

HA N U M A N 225 

theatres and palaces caught fire and crashed down. Elephants 
and horses died, and chariots were burned to ashes. Rakshasas 
and Rakshasis ran for their lives all over the city. The cries of 
women and children and dumb suffering animals filled the sky. 
In a few hours the whole of Lanka so fair to look on — the cynosure 
of all eyes in the universe — became a mass of cinder and ashes. 

As soon as Ravana saw Hanuman jumping about, he 
commanded his guards to recapture him, but that was impossible. 
Hanuman seeing the miraculous escape of Sita's grove alone from 
the general conflagration, attributed it as well as his own immunity 
from fire to Sita's unique chastity, and making a last salute to her 
and receiving her last message he got upon a rock, and putting 
out the fire in his tail sprang across the seas and rejoined his 

They were delighted to see him back in their midst from his 
great adventure, and wept, and danced, and jumped about in 
joy. Some embraced him, some drank him with their eyes, some 
lifted and carried him on their shoulders. Some brought honey 
and fruits and roots, and placed them before him saying that his 
very face showed to them that he had come back with success 
in his undertaking. Some looked on his wounds — the wounds 
caused by Indrajit and other Rakshasas in his fights — and wept 
tears of grief. At length after saluting Angada and Jambhavan 
and each of the rest according to his dignity and worth, Hanuman 
told them that Sita was safe and had sent a glorious message 
through him to Rama. Then, says the poet : 

The Vanars joined their hands in worship, and 

Their hearts with joy unspeakable filled, prayed him 

To tell the story of his flight and back 

In full. So he described the holy life 

Of Sita and her great austerities — 

And how she gave and how he brought the gem 

That would, as sign that she did live, delight 

The heart of Ram. But the story of his fights 

With Rakshasas, or of his setting fire 

To Lanka town, he passed in silence o'er, 

For he was loth his own exploits to tell. * 

Such was the modesty of this great and mighty hero. But 
they inferred all that he hesitated to say, for they said, 

i V xv 9. 


'The wounds announce thy struggles with thy foes, 

While thy return proclaims thy victory. 

The columns dark of smoke, that yonder rise 

Into the sky betray the ruin thou 

Hast brought upon thy enemies ! What need, 

Alas, of words about the strength of foes 

When brought is not the queen with thee ? ' 1 

But all the same glad that their party was able to trace out 
(the whereabouts of Sita, they returned to Kishkindha to place 
before Rama the happy results of their wanderings. Hanuman's 
account of his work to Rama occupies a very high rank in 
literature for the grandeur of its sentiments, but we shall reserve 
it for the chapter on Sita as it deals chiefly with her. Sugriva 
\vould not waste even a single minute — even to thank Hanuman 
for his great work — after receiving news of Sita, and so the whole 
army began to march southwards. 

Hanuman now prays Rama to honour him by riding upon his 
shoulders, and Rama graciously complies with his request. In 
Valmiki the position is reversed. It is Rama that proposes that 
he would ride upon Hanuman's shoulders. It is wonderful how 
Kamban attends even to such minute matters and invests his 
characters with greater delicacy and sweetness. De minimis non 
curat poeta, 2 says the critic. But Kamban's chisel can carve a bee 
on a lotus with the same ease with which it can shape a giant 
or cut a battle-piece. 

We have had occasion in previous chapters to speak of 
Hanuman's valour and physical strength, and so we need not dwell 
much upon them here. In fact, is not the whole Ramayana in a 
way the story of Hanuman's valour and might ? There is not 
one opponent of his who does not at once recognise his strength 
and heroism. We have seen Indrajit classing him with the 
Supreme Three even before seeing him 3 ; and when he sees him 
he is glad that he has such a foe to engage with. Ravana refers 
to the part played by our hero in the first day's battle in these 
words : 

' My foe upon the monkey rode : (but who 

Can say he only was a monkey tailed ?) 

The while he fought I wondered whether it be 

i V xv 10. 

* Poets do not care to bother about trifles. 

3 See page 101 and 103. 

HANUMAN * 227 

The whirlwind that he rode, or leaping Fire, 

Or Death himself. Can even Garuda 

The heavenly Eagle bear the fierceness 

Of that fight so lightly as that Hanuman.' x 

When Kumbhakarna aims his terrible lance at Sugriva, and 
.all beholders are every moment helplessly fearing that he cannot 
escape its force, it is Hanuman that leaps into the air and cleverly 
catches it and snaps it into two. And the sound of the snapping 
was as deep as when the bow of Shiva was broken by Rama for 
the sake of the fair hand of Sita ! 

Kumbhakarna wonders at his strength and says, 

' The mind cannot conceive nor tongue can praise 
The might uncommon of thy arm ! Whom can 
I couple with thee, who stand'st alone t' achieve 
The impossible ? Engage with me, and I 
Shall even now abide by what I said 
Before.' 2 

But Hanuman had already made and lost his bet against 
Kumbhakarna. So his code of honour prevented him from again 
engaging him, and he went his way, satisfied only with saving 
the life of Sugriva. 

When Malyavan, the grandfather of Ravana, hears thai the 
Hill of Drugs had been brought from the north to raise the dead 
in the Vanara army, he at once thinks of Hanuman as the only 
person who had the strength to achieve such a gigantic task. And 
-so he says to Ravana, 

' Who has the strength but Hanuman to fly 

From hence and cross the Meru mount within 

A trice, and bring the hill of drugs o'er here ? 

For he it is who has into the deep 

Of things with solemn thought explored. 

Who can with life escape if he uproot 

This rock of Lanka and dash it against 

The earth ? How can we war with him ? If he 

Should bring the Meru mount and drop it plumb 

On this isle, have we the strength to break its force ? 

l VI xv 29. .'..'.-. 4 2 VI xv 262, 263; 


If on destruction he is bent, there's nought 
To stop him from the attempt ! I say 'tis fools 
Alone who say that They of whom the Veds 
Do speak are only Three : I do declare 
That with this Hanuman, the Gods Supreme 
Are Four ! ' 1 

In the Vanara army also, wherever there is a difficult task'' 
to perform — a task that cannot be done by ordinary Vanaras — " 
it is Hanuman that is thought of by the leaders as the proper 
person to be entrusted with the same. We have seen in this 
chapter how Jambhavan praised him on the sea-shore, and pointed 
to him as the only Vanara who could cross the sea and return 
with success achieved from Lanka. We have seen how in the 
different battles he aided the other heroes at critical moments, 
and how often he saved the situation for the Vanara army from 
the mortal onslaughts of Kumbhakarna and Atikaya and Indrajit. 

We have referred more than once to Hanuman having brought 
the Hill of Drugs in order to save the Vanara army from the effects 
of the Brahmastra. The reader will remember that Vibhishana 
brings back Hanuman from the unconsciousness into which 
Indrajit's weapon had stunned him. He takes him to where 
Jambhavan, the wisest of the Vanaras, was lying overpowered by 
the same astra. As soon as Jambhavan hears Hanuman's voice 
he exclaims in joy, 

' Now all is not lost : we shall conquer yet : 

We shall even now rise from this fall — we shall ! ' 2 

Such is his faith in Hanuman. 

He then asks Hanuman to save Lakshraana and Rama and 
the seventy Vahinis of Vanaras by bringing the Hill of Drugs from 
the north. The rolling stanzas which Kamban puts into the 
mouth of Jambhavan, describing the route which Hanuman ought 
to take, and those in which the poet describes the flight of 
Hanuman are a treat to the lover of Tamil poetry, and will call 
to the mind of the English scholar the sonorous stanzas of Byron 
on the Ocean, both in the beauty of rhythm and the grandeur 
of the images that they suggest to the imagination. 

1 VI xxv 3-5. » VI xxiii 20. 

H A N V M A N 229 

When the Hill of Drugs wakes up Lakshmana and the Vanara as if from sleep, Rama embraces Hanuman and with tears 
in his eyes thanks him in these words : 

' Once we were horn of Dasharath, O friend, 

But those our bodies now are dead which took 

Their birth from him. And now we're born again, 

And thou it is to whom we owe this birth ! 

O thou that savedst us from o'erwhelming ruin, 

Thou hast enabled us to fight again 

Our foe, and saved our vows and honour dear 

As life, our ancient line and Ved itself ! 

And as thou didst my brother save, and all 

This host from the jaws of death, may never Death 

Approach thy frame : live thou for ev'r and ev*r ! ' 1 

When once again Hanuman saves Lakshmana, Rama's words 
to him though few are full of tenderness and soul. Says Rama, 

' O great one, Fortune has blessed me with thy love 

and friendship : what can I lack in life ? ' 2 

Hanuman's tender regard for Sita is one of the finest traits in 
his character. In this chapter itself, the conversation between 
Sita and Hanuman, and Hanuman's soliloquies that we have 
translated would show his chivalry and devotion to that paragon 
of women. And can the reader have forgotten Hanuman's 
behaviour and words when Indrajit cut off the head of the 
automaton made to look like Sita ? 3 

We think we have spoken of Hanuman both in this chapter 
and elsewhere sufficiently to give a tolerably living conception 
of the hero whom not only Kamban but all lovers of Rama love 
as their very Guru and God. But as we have said before, from 
the moment that he enters on the scene, Hanuman absorbs to 
himself an interest equal to that of Rama or Sita, and the three 
last books of the Ramayana must be studied from beginning to 
end in order to obtain a full and adequate mental picture of the 
great Vanara hero who came into the world ' to remove the 
helplessness of Dharma '. The parting words which Kamban puts 
in the mouth of Rama when after his happy coronation he sends 
Hanuman back from Ayodhya to his own Kishkindha are very 
beautiful, and are a measure of Hanuman's place in the story. 
Says the poet : 

1 VI xxiii 111-114. 2 VI xxxi 46. 

3 See page 105 et seq. _ v , 


And turning full on him his eyes that rained 

Affection and love, he said, ' There's none like thee,. 

When dangers hedge us round, to free us from 

Their fangs and lead us to shelter safe ! 

What guerdon can I give thee for the help 

Invaluable that thou hast rendered me 

I' th' past ? Embrace me, O my hero brave ! ' x 

What reward indeed can be greater than embracing the sacred" 
body of Rama whose beauty painters could not paint or sculptors 
chisel, and which none but Sita, not even the Rishis, were given 
to touch in that incarnation. 

But Hanuman's modesty and devotion would not allow him 
to put himself on a plane of equality with his master. He just 
hung down his head and stood aside — thus showing to the world 
how true merit always effaces itself avoiding public recognition. 
We shall also leave our hero in this same attitude, only pointing 
to him as a beacon light to those who desire to achieve greatness- 
in this world and the next. 

J VI xxxix 2d 


In this chapter we take up the study of the character and 
exploits of Havana, the great enemy of Rama, as depicted by 
our poet. Ravana's. chief characteristic in our story is his unholy 
passion for women. But he is much else besides. He is a 
Rakshasa learned in the Vedas, handsome with the handsomeness 
that strength and the consciousness of valour give, who by great 
austerities has acquired immense strength and invincibility 
and victory in war. He has conquered the Devas and the Asuras 
and the Yakshas and the Nagas, and exercises sway over the 
Three Worlds. In former days he had fought with every being 
considered powerful and had always either conquered them or 
made friends with them. The very mammoths that bear the 
universe on high from the eight extremities thereof had owned 
him victor after having had their tusks broken, while charging 
at his breast. Even the Supreme Trinity desisted from interfering 
with him, for austerities must always have their full effect till 
their strength was exhausted, and his austerities were not 
ordinary. He had been defeated only twice — and that only in 
single combat — once by Vali and another time by Kartavirya 
Arjuna, but in spite of these defeats he continued as ever before 
to be the master of the universe, these enemies never thinking 
it possible to remove him from his throne. 

These are the antecedents that Valmiki himself gives to 
Havana. Generally speaking, his delineation of Ravana is worthy 
of the antecedents that he presupposes for him. He depicts him 
as a hero proud and fierce and full of the authority that comes 
of supreme power. Everybody obeys Ravana's slightest word. 
None dare question his acts or even his orders. Where anybody 
has to differ from him, he expresses his opinion with due 
deference and after profuse apologies. But in one or two places 
Valmiki has forgotten himself and has lowered the dignity of 
Ravana. When, after being maimed by Lakshmana, Shurpanakha 
returns to Lanka, Valmiki makes her address Ravana thus : 

' Wilt thou absorbed in pleasure, still 
Pursue unchecked thy selfish will ; 
Nor turn thy heedless eyes to see 


The coming fate that threatens thee ? 
The king who days and hours employs 
In base pursuit of vulgar joys 
Must in his people's sight be vile, 
As fire that smokes on funeral pile. 

How, heedless, wicked, weak, and vain, 
Wilt thou thy kingly state maintain ? 
Thou, lord of giants, void of sense, 
Slave of each changing influence. . . . 
Thy counsellors are blind and weak, 
Or. thou from these hadst surely known 
Thy legions and thy realms overthrown. 

Enslaved and dull, of blinded sight, 
Intoxicate with vain delight, 
Thou closest still thy heedless eyes 
To dangers in thy realm that rise. 
A king besotted, mean, unkind, 
Of niggard, hard, and slavish mind, 
Will find no faithful followers heed 
Their master in his hour of need. 

O weak of mind, without a trace 
Of virtues that a king should grace, 
Who hast not learnt from watchful spy 
That low in death the giants lie. 
Scorner of others, but enchained 

By every base desire, 
By thee each duty is disdained 

Which time and place require. ' 

And how does Havana receive this gratuitous and meaningless 
insult from a woman ? 

As thus she ceased not to upbraid 

The King with cutting speech, 
And every fault to view displayed, 

Naming and marking each, 
The monarch of the sons of night, 

Of wealth and power possessed, 
And proud of his imperial might, 

Long pondered in his breast. 


Bhaskara, the Telugu poet, just follows the lead of Valmiki 
and makes Shurpanakha reprimand Ravana with bitter words 
ihus : 

' Glorious indeed is the manner in which thou and thy 
favourites are ruling the realms under your sway ! Ye are 
perfectly satisfied with your low pleasures. Thy powerful 
arms that lifted high the Kailas mount, now hang useless 
by thy side ; the glory of thy authority that extended over 
the three worlds" has now lost its lustre : thy arms have 
been victorious all over the worlds as far as space extends, 
but the light of thy victories has now grown dim : thy fame 
that has been flourishing up to now has now begun to fade 

' For when I gave out that I am thy sister, it only 
provoked my injurers the more, and this is the way they 
have dealt with me innocent ! And still they live ! Verily 
I cannot find words bitter enough to address thee, O hero 
of the serried heads, valiant in battle as Rudra himself ! ' 

Tulsidas too repeats the same scene of Shurpanakha 
reprimanding Ravana in his audience-hall, as if Ravana, though 
her brother, was not the proud and hitherto undisputed ruler of 
the universe. He puts such words into her mouth as, 

' Thou spendest thy time in revelries and sleepest both 
day and night ' etc. 
Contrast these with the way that Kamban represents the meeting 
of the maimed sister with her brother : 

She entered the northern gate of the city with her hands 
joined over her head as a suppliant. . . . The Rakshasas 
that looked on her grew red with rage ; some spoke words 
like thunder ; some' could not speak at all ; their eyes rained 
fire and they bit their lips ; some were heard to say, ' could 
Indra have been guilty of this sacrilege ? or could it be 
Brahma ? or may it be Shiva ? Others would answer, 
' where are the foes that we can point to in this universe ? 
It is impossibe that any in this triple universe should have 
attempted this deed : it must be the doing of some from 
the Worlds beyond.' 

The music of the Vina and the Mridanga, of the Yal 
and the flute, of the Shankha and the horn, all were hushed 
that day in Lanka and only lamentations were heard for 
the fate of Shurpanakha. 


While all Lanka was thus immersed in grief as she- 
walked along, she reached the audience-hall of Ravana and 
fell at his feet as a cloud settling at the foot of a hilL 
Darkness fell over the universe as pall. Adishesha, who 
is bearing the earth on his shoulders, was terrified as to- 
what would happen when Ravana's anger was roused, and 
bent down his head. The mountains of the earth shook. 
The Sun was beside himself with fear. The mammoths that 
bear aloft the universe fled, and the Devas concealed 
themselves in nooks and corners. 

With smoke rushing through his mouths even as he bit 
his lips with his teeth, his very moustaches trembling and 
smelling with the fire of his breath, with his teeth giving 
out the sheen of lightning while he ground them in his anger, 
he thundered out, ' whose deed is this ? ' 

She replied, ' There are two men who are like him whose 
standard is the fish. 1 They are protecting the earth from 
ills and live in the forest ; there is none that can compare 
with them in beauty of form ; it is they that cut at me with 
their swords ! ' 

When she said it was men that did this injury to her, 
he laughed a laugh that resounded to the very ends of the 
earth, his eyes radiated fire, and he asked, ' Is this all that 
these feeble hermits have done ; or have they done anything 
more ? Fear not thou and speak thou without concealing 
all that befell.' 2 

Kamban represents Shurpanakha as still under the 
infatuation of her passion for Rama and Lakshmana, and makes 
her describe their beauty and prowess with extreme warmth, 
at the end of which description she gives out that their names 
are Rama and Lakshmana and that they are the sons of 

When he had heard to the end, Ravana broke out thus : 

' Tis men that've maimed my sister dear as life, 
And having maimed her they're yet alive ? And still. 
His sword in hand and bitten not with shame, 
Lives Ravan yet, not even hanging down 

His eyes or heads ! 

Behold they live who have offended me : 

i Manmatha — the Indian Cupid. 
a III vii 24-29, 36, 45, 46, 49-51. 


• And lo, my sword is by my side ; my arms 
Unparalysed do hang ; the years that Shiv 
Has blessed me with are running on — I live ! 
Art thou ashamed, O heart ? and fearest thou 
To bear the dire disgrace ne'er felt before ? 
Think not thyself too weak : thy heads are ten, 
And twenty are thy arms, full strong enough 
To bear this weight of shame ! ' x 

So saying, and with his eyes flashing fire, he asked, ' And 
what were Kara and the Rakshasas doing without killing these 
feeble men ? ' 

As soon as he asked this question, tears gushed from her eyes 
as if from a fountain. She struck her breast and fell down upon 
the ground. Again joining her hands she began, ' thy kindred 
all are dead, O Sire ! ', and continued thus : 

' As soon as they heard my complaint, Kara and the • 
rest . of the bull-like heroes rose with their troops and 
marched against them, but all of them fell within a space 
of four hours, struck by the arrows of the lotus-faced prince 
called Rama.' 

When he heard that his brethren had died at the hands of 
a man, and who fought only singly, grief and indignation, 
struggled in his heart, and tears flowed and lights flashed from 
his eyes as rain and lightning play about a storm-cloud. The 
grief that was submerged under the fire of his anger now acted 
like ghee 2 and roused it into a flame ; and he asked her, ' What 
is it that thou hadst done them, that they laid violent hands- 
on thee and chopped thy lips and nose ? ' 

' My fault,' she began, ' it related to a woman whose 
waist is like the lightning, whose tender arms are like the 
bamboo stem, and whose colour is that of pure gold. I 
imagine she is Lakshmi herself who has left her lotus home 
and lives with Rama ! ' 3 

' And who is She ? asked Ravana, when she began thus : 

' Her name is Sita : blessed is the earth 
That bears her tender feet upon her lap. 
Her bosom shines like cups of burnished gold : 
The music of her voice recalls the sounds 

1 III vii 58, 60, 61. » clarified butter. 

a m vii 67. 


Of woods, and groves, and honey tender-sweet. 

Her tresses rich adorned with flowers, she is 

A queen among the fair of heavens ! If she 

Who dwells i' the lotus is not worthy ev'n 

To be her maid, how can I make thee feel 

Her beauty ? Like a deep-black cloud do show 

Her tresses fair, and also falling rain. 

Her feet are cotton-soft, her fingers show 

As corals tender-red. Ambrosia she 

Has robbed, and lo, her ravishing speech doth flow 

Therewith. And though her face is not larger than 

The lotus, her eyes are deeper than the sea ! 

They're fools who say that Manmatha was burnt 

By fire of Shiva's eyes. This is the truth : 

He saw this damsel and smitten was with love 

For her form ; but being spurned by her, 

He wasted sheer away and a martyr died 

To love — such is the beauty of her form ! . . . . 

Shall I her arms describe, or the swords x that rove 
Upon her gold-bright face ? Or shall I praise 
Her other charms ? I am confused for I 
Have not the skill to paint her lovely limbs 
In words ! But thou wilt surely see thyself 
Tomorrow : why should I thy time consume ? 
If once her charms are thine, O Sire, thy heart 
Can never rove again and all thy wealth 
Thou'lt place at Sita's feet : and mark my words : 
Thou'lt bless me for my pains when once thou look'st 
On her : but all thy queens will vent their hate 
On me — for verily I bring them nought 
But ruin.' 2 

After rousing Ravana's passion for this unseen beauty, 
Shurpanakha now reveals the motive which induced her to do so. 
She tells him : 

' Possess her, immerse thy soul 

In love, while all the world shall sing in joy 
Thy marriage song : a guerdon now I claim : 
Put forth thy valour and, defeating Ram, 

1 eyes. 2 III vii 68-71, 73, 77. 

R A VAN A 23? 

Wed me to him, for, him I love as life. 

Though great the merit earned by austerities, 

As destiny doth rule us all, no good 

Can come to us except in its own time. 

For, Sire, 'tis only now that thou art given 

T enjoy th' advantage of thy twenty eyes 

And arms ! "Tis such a fair that I did try 

To bring for thee, when Lakshman brother of Ram, 

Attacked and wounded me. I hurried here 

To tell thee this, and after telling all, 

To go and end my life disgraced for ever ! ' 1 

Hero in this conversation we see how Kamban keeps high 
the prestige and dignity of Ravana. His sister talks to him as 
a suppliant and not as a virago who is used to treat her brother 
with scant courtesy. See also how our poet exploits to the full 
the dramatic possibility of the situation. Shurpanakha coming 
as an injured suppliant with hands over her head, the remarks 
of the Rakshasa people at the unheard of insult to their power 
and prestige, Ravana's indignation at the sight of the wrong to 
which his sister had been subjected, his self-deprecation that 
in any part of his dominion such an ignominious insult should 
be offered to his sister, the bringing in of the reference to Khafa 
at the psychological moment — all these are contrived and 
arranged with the justesse of the trained master-artist. 

Here also we may note, in passing, Kamban's just taste in 
the matter of the architecture of the epic. Those who have 
finally arranged and revised the Benares and Southern Recensions 
— which agree with each other very closely — of Valmiki's 
Ramayana have not exhibited in this part of the story that . 
apprehension of bhavika which they so generally exhibit in their 
recensions. In Canto XXXI of the Forest Book in these recensions, 
a Rakshasa named Akampana, after acquainting Ravana of the 
prowess of Rama continues thus : 

' But guile may kill the wondrous man : 

Attend u>hile I disclose the plan. 

His wife, above all women graced, 

Is Sita of the dainty waist, 

"With limbs to fair proportion, true, 

And a soft skin of lustrous hue. 

l m vii 79-81. 


Round neck and arms rich gems are twined : 

She is the gem of womankind. 

With her no bright Gandharvi vies, 

No nymph or goddess in the skies ; 

And none to rival her would dare 

'Mid dames who part the long black hair. 

That hero in the wood beguile, 

And steal his lovely spouse the ivhile. 

'Reft of his darling wife, be sure, 

Brief days the mourner will endure.' 

This plan pleases Ravana and he goes to Maricha and tells 
him : 

' My guards, the bravest of my band, 
Are slain by Rama's vigorous hand ; 
And Janasthan, that feared no hate 
Of foes, is rendered desolate. 
Come, aid me in the plan 1 lay 
To steal the conquerer's wife away.' 

Maricha, however, speaks of the great prowess of Rama and 
.advises Ravana to give up his dangerous ideas. He says, 

' And pacified and self-possessed, 

To Lanka's toum return. 
Rest thou in her imperial bowers 

With thine own wives content. 
And in the wood let Rama's hours 

With Sita still be spent.' 

Ravana takes the advice and returns to Lanka. Then 
Shurpanakha comes to Ravana's court and after reprimanding 
him, gives an account of Khara's fall, Rama's beauty and prowess, 
and Sita's charms and advises him — she also as Akampana — to 
steal away Sita. Ravana again flies to Maricha, to demand his 
help. This conversation between Maricha and Ravana, though 
much more elaborate, is constructed as if the first visit and 
conversation had not taken place at all. 

This is such an obviously faulty bhauika that we cannot 
understand how the commentators like Govindaraja and others 
did not correct the error and remove the incident of Akampana 
and the first meeting with Maricha from the story. It is a still 


.greater wonder that Bhaskara copies even these re-duplications in 
his rendering of the Ramayana. Kamban, as the reader would 
have noticed, has cut away the Akampana incident altogether and 
concentrates all his poetry and art in the elaborations with 

The Passion of Ravana for Sita, being the bija — the seed— 
irom which grow all the subsequent incidents of the story, we 
should have expected Valmiki to have emphasised and elaborated 
it at the end of the conversation between Shurpanakha and 
Ravana. But neither in Canto XXXVI where Ravana tried to 
persuade Maricha to disguise himself as a deer in order to inveigle 
Rama and Lakshmana from the side of Sita, nor in Canto XL 
where he threatens Maricha with death if he does not obey his 
direction, does the Samskrit poet lay emphasis on Ravana's passion 
for Sita. 

We shall see how Kamban sows the bija and develops it. 
When Shurpanakha had finished the description of Sita's person, 
says the poet : 

all his anger and valour and sense of shame now left his 
heart, even as all good emotions leave the soul into which 
sin has gained entrance. Now lust and the pangs that 
accompany lust became like two fires and mingled with his 
soul. Struck by the arrows of Manmatha, 1 he forgot Khara, 
he forgot the strength of his arm who maimed his sister, he 
forgot the disgrace that had befallen him, he forgot the limits 
of the blessings received by him, but he forgot not the fair of 
whom his sister spoke. 

His thoughts and the name of Sita of the slender waist 
had ceased to be two and had become but one single current : 
had he now another mind to leave off one of them and to 
take only the other ? How else could he forget her ? Can 
even the learned conquer lust unless they have acquired 

Even before he brought away the fair one whose form 
was like unto the peacock, the Lord of Lanka imprisoned her 
within the dungeons of his heart ! And thereby his heart 
began to slowly melt away even as butter when placed in the 

Because his own destiny egged him on from behind, and 
because his actions and thoughts of the past were maturing 

i The Indian Cupid. .'--•' '•,.:.. 


in 9rder to bear their appropriate fruit, and also because the 

days of his prosperity were fast approaching their appointed 

end, the pangs of his passion grew more and more intense 

even as the seed of evil secretly sown by an ignorant fool. 

And Manmatha acquired the strength to hit the Rakshasa, 

for in passion lies the force that can wear away strength. x 

Kamban then describes the pangs of the Rakshasa filled with 

his lustful thoughts. The whole description amounting to eighty 

stanzas is an extravaganza in which Kamban submits to, or rather, 

he joyously and riotously follows the examples set by earlier 

epic-poets and by his period. Thus he depicts Ravana as feeling 

a burning sensation all over his body — the result of his passion for 

Sita. The cool breeze that blows from the sea only roasts his 

limbs. He goes into a grove with spreading and shady trees and 

tries to rest in a summer-house or a bed of new-plucked flowers. 

But though it is mid-winter he cannot bear the heat. He roars, 

• I hate this season, change it.' At once winter disappears and 

spring takes its place. ' But what can cure those men who have 

drunk the poison of love ? ' So, displeased with it, he calls for 

the autumn. That season too does not suit him, ' Let there be 

no seasons ! ' he commands, and then all the seasons disappear 

and Lanka shines like heaven itself where there are no seasons, 

but one uniform and entrancing flow of time. But even then 

the body of the Rakshasa continues to burn, for, ' what is there 

in times and seasons ? Unless one conquers passion with 

self-restraint one can never escape its stings. ' 

Then he calls for the moon, and then the sun, and finally 
the night, and each one of them comes trembling at his bidding. 
The darkness is ' palpable ', ' visible ', ' thick ', ' black like a heart 
without ruth '. In the night Ravana sees the form of Sita floating 
before him in the form of a coral creeper. He raves about her 
and at length calls Shurpanakha and asks her to tell him whether 
the form before him is the very woman that she had described 
in the morning. But she on her part raves in her passion. 
She says : 

' The figure that stands over there is that of Rama of the 
strong bow, with his lotus-eyes and lips like red fruit, with 
his broad chest and strong arms and long beautiful flower 
garlands. Behold he stands like a blue hillock.' 2 
But when he says that the figure that he sees is female in 
shape, she replies that men in love are used to see the forms of" 

l III vii 82-87. > III vu 149. 


their loved ones projected before their mind's eye as if they are 
real persons. To the question how it is that she saw the form of 
Rama, she satisfies him by saying that ever since he maimed her 
she could not forget him. He asks her again ' what will become 
of me who am suffering these tortures on account of her ! ' She 
then gives out the suggestion which is the seed of all the subsequent 
action of the Ramayana : 

' Thou art the undisputed master of the universe. Why 
art thou then hesitating to act ? Go to the place where she 
is and capture her for thyself ! ' 

It is after this that Ravana consults his councillors and then 
hurries to where Maricha was leading a retired life, to persuade 
him to help him by his wiles to capture Sita. 

We have given a resume of this extravagant scene, in order 
that the reader might see Kamban as he is, both in his strength as 
well as in his weakness. Although Pandits of the old school will 
go into ecstasies over these verses, critics whose taste is corrected 
by a comparative study of the Western as well as Eastern poetry 
cannot but condemn the extravagances in which Kamban indulges 
in these verses. But the beauty and merit of our poet, is that 
there are few occasions in which he offends the taste of even the 
most exacting of critics. On the other hand, the richness of his 
poetry, and the general justness of his taste, and his architectonic 
skill are so conspicuous that these defects look only like the dark 
spots in the sun. 

But even this extravagance, faulty as it is when taken by itself, 
serves a very necessary purpose in the scheme of the story. For, 
what but such an intense and unreasoning passion could make 
Ravana cling to Sita to the last, in spite of his own terrible defeats^ 
and the loss of Kumbhakarna, Atikaya, Indrajit, and even his 
reserve force ? So although we should like that this passion had 
been described in a more natural manner, we cannot but admire 
Kamban's instinct in deciding that it ought to be described very 
elaborately in this part of the story. This passion of Ravana for 
Sita is not, however, the vulgar lust of a depraved heart, but 
the tender and delicate desire of a heart that desires reciprocal 
affection. He wants to conquer Sita's heart and win her willing 
love. He does not desire to force her hand. There is indeed 
the story and Kamban speaks of it in more than one place, that 
there is a curse on him that, the moment he tries to unite with 
a woman against her will, his head would burst into a hundred 


fragments. But our poet depicts Ravana as if he genuinely, and 
not for fear of the curse, desired the willing affection of Sita. 
And so the words he addresses to Sita are always full of a rare 
delicacy, taking every circumstance into consideration. At the 
first meeting With Sita in the forest of Dandaka, Valmiki makes 
Ravana speak bluntly to her like a vulgar wooer of her beauty. 
Though coming disguised as a sanyasin, Valmiki's Ravana tells 
her, among other things, 

' Thy charms of smile and teeth and hair 
And winning eyes, O thou most fair, 
Steal all my spirit, as the flow 
Of rivers mines the bank below.' 

His speech also lacks consistency with itself. For while very 
soon, without any further ado, he is going to announce himself 
as Ravana, the words, 

' Leave, lady, leave this lone retreat 
In forest wilds for thee unmeet, 
Where giants fierce and strong assume 
All shapes and wander in the gloom. 

Here giants roam a savage race, 
What led thee to so dire a place ? ' 

are more calculated to injure than help his cause. 

Sita is not indignant at this vulgar and almost lascivious 
admiration, but tells her story at his request, and in the end asks 
him as to who he is. His reply can hardly be called delicate. 
He says, 

' Lord of the giant legions, .... 

Ravan the Rakshas king am- I : 

Now when thy gold-like form I view, 

My love, O thou of perfect mould, 
For all my dames is dead and cold. 
A thousand fairest women, torn 
From many a land my home adorn. 
But come, loveliest lady, be 
The queen of every dame and me.' 


We shall see how Kamban presents the first meeting of Ravana 
and Sita. 

As soon as Lakshmana left the cottage, Ravana disguised 
himself as a hermit with a triple staff in hand, in order the 
better to deceive his victim. His body was now thin as if 
he had worn it away in fasts. He wore a tired look as if 
he had been walking a long distance. He chanted the Vedas 
to' the accompaniment of the Vina on which he was playing 
himself. He stepped with the softness of flowers falling on 
the ground — he could not have been more circumspect if the 
earth he walked on was spread over with fire. Sita took 
him for a hermit of pure thought and welcomed him. 

The flood-tide of passion was agitating the sea of his 
heart and his frame was suffused with sweat as he saw with his 
eyes — her who was the crown of beauty, the home of honour, 
and the queen of chastity. At her sight his strong shoulders 
swelled and shrank. It is little if we say that his eyes were 
intoxicated with the sight of her beauty even as bees get 
drunk with the dripping honey of the flowers ; the intoxication 
•of his heart alone could compare with that of his eyes. He 
thought to himself, ' Can these twenty eyes be sufficient to 
drink in the beauty of this fair one who has left her lotus 
home and come to live here below ? What pity I have not. 
a thousand unwinking eyes ? It is to enjoy the ocean of 
this damsel's charms that I have been blessed with three 
crore years and a half of mortal life and all the other blessings 
that my austerities have earned.' 

Again he thought, ' I shall make her queen of all the three 
worlds and appoint all the Asuras and Devas with their wives 
to obey her every command, and I shall myself obey her 
slightest wish.' Another mood came on and now he said to 
himself, ' If this is the loveliness of her face, when she is 
under a cloud of grief, what must be the charm of her 
heavenly smile ? I shall give away my throne to my sister 
who discovered this beauty to me '. While he was thinking 
on these things in his passion-inflamed breast, Sita wiped 
away a falling tear from her eyes and offered him the mat 
made of rushes to seat himself. He took his seat placing the 
triple staff beside the mat. 1 

Although Kamban fills in here the picture quite differently 
from Valmiki, he does not hesitate to take a hint from Valmiki 

1 III viii 20-22, 26-34. 


for some sublime images which he imports into this scene. So 
before he takes up the conversation between Sita and Ravana, he 
prepares a grand background by saying that when the Rakshasa 
sat there revolving his nefarious purpose in his head, 

The mountains trembled at the Rakshas' sight, 
And trees a tremor felt from lowest root 
Up to their topmost height. The birds grew dumb, 
While beasts in terror crouched, and cobras stole 
Away with shrunken hoods ! l 

The student of Milton will here recall to mind those sublime 
lines in the Ninth Book of the Paradise Lost wherein the poet 
makes Nature feel responsible for the huge misfortune that was 
about to befall the human race through the act of Eve : 

" So saying, her rash hand in evil hour 
Forth reaching to the fruit, she plucked, she ate ! 
Earth felt the wound and Nature from her seat 
Sighing through all her works gave signs of woe 
That all was lost." 

The conversation between Ravana and Sita in Kamban begins 
in this wise : 

He sat and sitting asked, ' who is the sage 

That liveth here ? And tell me, lady, who 

Art thou ? ' When large-eyed Sita thus replied : 

' The chief of Dasharatha's royal race does live 

In this retreat with his devoted brother : 

And he has taken to this forest life 

In obedience to his high-born mother's commands ; 

Thou must have heard his name, O holy Sire ! ' 

' I've heard of him,' he said, ' but know him not, 

Though once I wandered by the realms that 're laved 

By Ganges holy stream. But who art thou, 

And who's thy sire, O dame of large bright eyes ? ' 

' I am the daughter,' Sita said, ' of sage 

Janaka who honours holy men like thee 

As Gods. My name therefore is Janaki, 

And I'm the wife of Rama of the race 

i IU viii 35. 


Of Kakutstha. Now holy sir, thou seem'st 

To hail from far off lands, for tired is 

Thy look. I pray thee tell me, whence dost thou 

Thy holy person bring ? ' 1 

In reply to this question, the pretended holy person fell to 
praising Ravana and his glories. After giving a glowing account 
of his sovereignty, beauty, and power and valour, he continued 
thus : 

' Though countless are the beauteous damsels who 

Desire to call him Lord, he hasn't given 

His heart to one of them : he is searching earth 

And heaven for one who could delight his heart. 

I passed these days in Lanka where he reigns : 

But as a longing came on me to join 

My friends in holy endeavour, I left 

His realms and am come back to Janasthan.' 2 

The reader will notice the art with which the conversation is 
pushed on and the dexterous manner in which Ravana is made 
to lay siege to Sita's heart. No expression escapes the lips of 
Ravana, which is indelicate, rough, or rude. Ravana works only 
by suggestion, and very remote suggestion at that. The suggestion 
is so remote that Sita does not notice it at all at this stage and 
only asks him, 

' O sir that should'st regard the body ev'n 

As weight unbearable, how didst thou choose 

To dwell in the city of the sinful beings 

Who honour not the Ved's or Brahmanas 

And who do eat the flesh of living kind ? 

Thou left'st the forest-land where sages live, 

Nor didst thou care for the fertile realms where men 

Of holiness do congregate, but lived'st 

Amidst those Rakshasas of wicked life. 

What hast thou done, O Sire of holy vows ? ' 3 

-And then the colloquy continues thus : 

The Rakshas thus replied : ' O lady fair 

We who have conquered evil, how can we fear 

The Rakshasas as cruel beings ! And if 

1 III viii 36-40. 2 ni vili 49, 50. s m viil 51, 52. 


Thou want the truth, I trow they are not worse 

Than gods. In sooth, I find the Rakshasas 

A friend invaluable to men like me.' 

When Sita heard his words she thought within 

Her heart, ' he is no holy man who thus 

Associates with evil ones — he is 

Of those who follow with their lips alone 

The path of holiness.' She did not know, 

Poor innocent, that the wily • Rakshasas 

Could at their will assume whatever shape 

Or form they pleased ; and so she didn't suspect 

A worser guile. 1 

The wily Rakshas felt at once that he 

Had raised suspicions in fair Sita's breast, 

And thus attempted he to smooth them down. 

' And thou must call to mind, O Janaki,' 

He said, ' that when the Rakshasas do rule 

The worlds without a peer, what can we do 

Of holy endeavour unless we walk 

Their way and earn their friendship and their love ? ' 2 

The substance of the subsequent portion of this interview till 
Ravana reveals himself as he is, has been given at page 15 et seq., 3 
and so we shall not translate it here. We have, however, we hope,, 
placed sufficient material before the reader to enable him to judge 
for himself the difference between Valmiki and Kamban in the 
description of Havana's courting, and consequently in the 
delineation of Ravana's love for Sita. 

In the second interview also between Ravana and Sita, which 
takes place in the Ashoka grove, when Hanuman sits concealed 
in the foliage of a tree close by, Kamban preserves this same 
delicacy on the part of Ravana very carefully. Valmiki on the 
other hand makes Ravana blunt and rough in this interview also. 4 ' 
He makes him begin his speech thus : 

i m viii 53, 54. The reader will recognise a flavour in these lines 
similar to that in the lines in the Third Book of the Iliad, where Homer 
speaks of Helen's ignorance of the fate of her brothers : 
' So spake the fair, nor knew her brothers' doom. 
Wrapt in the cold embrace of the tomb.' 

a III viii 55. 

3 At page 15 et seq. a bare outline only has been given ; for a fuller 
account see the Chapter on Sita. , 

* This interview is really the third in Valmiki. For he intervenes- 
unnecessarily another interview between Ravana and Sita as taking: 
place immediately after they reach Lanka. 


' Why dost thou cover thy breasts and body at sight of 
me, O thou whose thighs are like the trunk of an elephant ? 
I desire thee O Sita ; look upon me with favour ! ' 

Observe the enormous difference of tone in Karoban. He 
says : 

What was to him a poison mortal, he 
Thirsted to taste, as if it was the drink 
Immortal, "and his speech he thus began : 
' O Koil sweet of the slender waist, when wilt 

Thou look on me with ruth ? 

The days are passing one by one away, 

And this is all the kindness thou hast shown 

To me ! Mean'st thou t' accept me when I'm dead — 

Aye, murdered by thy cruelty ? 

O thou who'rt lovely like a tendril of gold, 

Thou dost despise my throne of high renown ! 

But granting that thy husband liveth yet, 

And thou canst see again Ayodhya town, 

Wouldst not thou find the joys but human joys ? 

And what's the highest blessing tapasvins 

Desire ? It is the joyous life of those 

That do my favours win by service leal ! 

O Sita, life and youth are transient, 

Thou canst not youth enjoy for long : if all 

Thy days of youth are wasted thus, when dost 

Thou hope to reap the fruits of life ? 'Tis not 

For me, I grieve : I shall die willingly, 

If that's thy wish : but if thy heart is turned 

To bitterness, show me another one 

Beside thyself for charm that never cloys, 

And love and beauty's perfect shape. 

Shall Janak's race in female loveliness, 

And strength of mind and other noble charms 

Alone be rich, and wilt thou make men say, 

That it does lack in tenderness and ruth 

And has a niggard heart ? 

When all thy good deeds of the past, betimes 
Matured, are come to yield thee golden fruit, 
Wilt thou for spite despise the fruit and sulk 

Away ? 

Thou canst, if thou my prayer grant, acquire 


With" ease a glorious name as saviour proud 
Of the Rakshas race : dost thou the shame prefer, 
To be pointed at as its destroyer fell ? 
Fortune has placed within thy reach, unasked, 
Th' imperial crown of all the worlds, and wives 
Of gods will be maids to wait on thee ; 
And thou dost scorn the gift ! Was ever fool 
Like thee ? O scorn it not but do accept 
Me as thy slave, who rule the triple worlds 
Without a rival or a peer ! ' He ended : 
And raising his hands above his serried heads, 
He fell prostrating at her feet. 1 

If the love of Ravana for Sita is of a higher type in Kamban, 
it is, as the reader will have seen here and elsewhere, not the less 
deep or less passionate or less absorbing. No defeat, no death — 
death even of his nearest and dearest — will induce him to part 
with her or give up the hope of making her his own. It is only 
when Indrajit had fallen on the field that in a paroxysm of grief, 
he rushes sword in hand to kill her, but the words of Mahodara 
cool him and he becomes himself again. In a fancy of Mandodari, 
when she laments for her fallen lord, our poet has concentrated 
all that can be said of the depth of Ravana's love for Sita, and 
with that we shall close this phase of Ravana's character. Kamban 
makes her say thus : 

' The noble frame that lifted high the hill 
Of Shiv is pierced through and through by darts : 
There is not even space for a ses'mum seed 
To rest o'er all its vast expanse ! Did Ram 
Desire to sound and see the exact spot 
Where did reside my Ravan's mighty spirit ? 
Or did that hero's conscious darts believe 
That love for Janaki might yet remain 
Concealed within that handsome frame, and did 
They probe for it, o'er every needle-point 
Of space therein ? ' 2 

It is not always, however, that Ravana's heart was so fully 
engrossed by passion for women. It is only after hearing about 
Sita that passion for women became the predominant note of hi3 

1 V iv 24, 26-29, 31-37. 2 VI xxxvi 239. 

R A V A N A 24ft 

character. But before that, love of power, love of warlike 
•enterprises and love of glory were the chief characteristics of the 
great Rakshasa. Even after the entry into his soul of this 
inordinate passion for Sita, glory and love of military achievement 
occupy a very high place in his heart. So, when Maricha tries to 
dissuade him from his nefarious attempt to steal Sita away, 
Havana replied to one of his arguments in these words : 

' My sway ia undisputed o'er the worlds : 
If new foes rise what can delight my heart 
Better ? ' l 

Thus again during the first interview with Sita, he cannot 
bear her remarks against his prowess, although she is speaking 
to him not knowing who he is, he being still disguised as a 
wandering hermit. So, 

When she these stinging words did speak, his eyes 
Flashed fire : he ground his lightning-laden teeth 
Which crashed out thunder : and his false form burst, 
Revealing all his branching arms and crowns 
Upreaching to the sky. 2 

It is this sense of honour that makes him feel acutely the 
ignominy of the maiming of Shurpanakha by Rama and 
Lakshmana. When Hanuman had burnt the city of Lanka and 
escaped alive, he feels the shame of it more keenly than the loss 
of his immense treasures or even the destruction of his capital. 
He says in his council after the rebuilding of the city by the 
-architects of the heaven : 

' The world resounds with bruit of our disgrace, 
And yet I am not dead, but sit with pride 

Upon this throne 

The air of Lanka smells with tresses singed 
Of Rakshas dames, and yet we sit in peace 

As if enjoying th' odour 

If the Vanara at least had fallen killed 

By Rakshas swords, our honour might have been 

Redeemed : but now we're drowned in ignominy.' 3 

i III vii 199. 2 III viii 64. 

3 VI ii 12-14. 


Again, when Sugriva leaps on him, the while he was observing. 
the enemy's army at the commencement of the hostilities, and 
after a hand to hand struggle with him plucks away the gems 
on his crowns, he feels acutely the shame of such a defeat and 
says to himself ; ' It were better if I had died.' 

And where except perhaps in Milton's Satan, can we find 
greater pride or determination than exhibited by Ravana in the 
course of the war ? Ravana's authority is greater than Satan's : 
none dares question his authority, none dares even to presume 
to advise him except Kumbhakarna. And see how he treats 
Kumbhakarna when he advises him, and how Kumbhakarna 
submits to his will the moment he sees that Ravana is threatened. 
It is true that Indrajit uses bitter words to Ravana, and Danamala 
is even harder as her words are more taunting. But in both these 
cases it is in the paroxysm of their grief that these words escape 
their lips. And on both these occasions, Ravana himself was 
grieving along with them for the loss of his valient sons on the 

Note, however, Indrajit's concern for the honour of his father, 
even at the moment that he reprimands him for sending Aksha 
against Hanuman after he had shown such prowess. For when 
he sees Aksha's body on the ground he says : 

' Alas 'tis not my brother lying dead — 
It is my father's glory faded lies 
Upon the ground.' 1 

And, after the third battle with Lakshmana, when he advises 
Ravana to send Sita away, see how submissive Indrajit's tone has 
become. He is afraid even to say that it is through Ravana's 
passion for Sita that all these misfortunes have befallen them. 
He merely says, 

' Our race hath sinned or such a powerful foe 
Arises not for us.' 2 

Such is the awe with which Indrajit regarded his father. And 
need we recall to the reader the reply of Ravana to this suggestion 
of his son, to the sublime sentiments and haughty tone of which 
very few passages in World literature can afford a parallel ? In 

1 V xii 5. 2 VI xxvfi 4. 

R A V A N A 251 

how many epics can we find sentiments and language 1 like the 
following ? 

' Think not that I did count 

On those my men who are already fallen : 
Think not I counted on the crew that's yet 
Alive. Think not I hoped that thou wouldst beat 
My foes upon the field : in my sole right arm 
I placed my. trust and I provoked this war ! 

Ev'n if I lose, if Rama's name will stand, 

My name, will not it also stand as long 

As Veds are sung on earth ? And who canst death 

Escape that comes to all ? We live to-day, 

To-morrow finds us not : but glory, doth 

It ever die ? 

Die I may 

But can I stoop to shame and littleness ? ' 2 

And in the mouth of how many of the creations of poetic 
genius will such words appear as natural as these do in the mouth 
of Ravana ? In fact, Kamban has carved his Ravana in such 
proportions that no words that may be put into his mouth can 
be too brave or too exalted for his moral stature. 

Now, while Ravana is proud and exacting when what he 
thinks to be his honour is concerned, he is not without deep 
affection for his brother and sons. In fact his love for them falls 
short only just a little of his love of glory and honour. We have 
seen how he melts into tears when Kumbhakarna starts for the 
field. When messengers come and tell him that Kumbhakarna 
has fallen in the field, he falls down unconscious like an uprooted ' 
sal tree. Says the poet : 

From childhood's days they had not lived apart : 
Though two their bodies, their life was only one. 
When such a brother died, and for his sake. 
The heart of Ravan broke in two, he swooned : 
And thus lamented he his fate aloud : 

1 We always refer to the words of Kamban and not to our transla- 1 - 
tion, the inadequacy of which, we realise more keenly than the hardest 
of critics. 

2 VI xxvii 8, 10, 11. 


* O brother, who hast destroyed the Danav hosts, 
As a tusker does the o'er-grown lotus pond ! 
O hero, who erased'st great Indra's name 
From the list of kings ! O first of Rakshasas ! 
Lived I so long alone to hear these words ? 

thou of the flashing lance, thy dear face 
Is hid from me : I speak these words and yet 

1 cling to life ! If thou hast gone, O brother, 
In the hardness of thy heart abandoning me, 
Who will believe again in brotherhood's love ? 
If thou art fallen thus upon the field, 

Would not yon Indra go in triumph back 

To his celestial realm ? And Danavas 

Who live in terror of our eye, wouldn't they 

Our valour mock and try to walk erect ? 

O thou, to whom the Meru hill was but 

A scrubbing stone at bathing time ! The word 

That thou art killed by th' arrow of a man — 

That word doth burn me to the quick and doth 

Consume my heart with shame 

The triple lance of Shiva blunt fell, 

And disk of Vishnu, and the thunderbolt 

Of Indra, King of Heaven lost their force, 

The moment they did touch thy adamant chest ! 

And do I hear it said the feeble darts 

Of yonder men had power to pierce thy frame ? 

And so I hear it said they're strutting o'er 

The field in glee, proud of this victory ? 

' While thou wert marching proud in victory 

To victory, I had my fill of the joy 

Of life, but now that thou art dead, my brother, 

I do not care to live. I cannot live 

Alone, nor shall I let thee go alone : 

I come, my elephant proud, I come, I come ! ' 1 

Similarly, when Atikaya's death was announced to him, tears 
gushed forth from his eyes : he sobbed and stood like a sea 
agitated by the changing emotions — dashing one against another — 
of grief and shame, and pity and indignation, and heroic 
determination. Now he would look in the direction of the battle- 
field ; now he would look at the Devas standing around : now 

i VI xvi 83, 86. 

RAVANA 255' 

he would think on the unbearable shame of his son's defeat and 
death ; now he would look at his sword that had earned for him 
so many triumphs ; now he would wring his hands in despair. 
Now like a mad man he would in turns smile and weep, frown 
and crouch in shame. Now he would think of demolishing the 
vault of heaven ; now he would think of lifting the earth ; now 
he would think of destroying all life in one fell swoop. Then he 
would think of cleaving in two the bodies of all who bore the 
name of woman. But when this thought would cross his mind, 
he would feel the pang as of a wound that is seared by fire. None 
around him did open his mouth. None even dared to breathe. 
Those who stood by him suppressed their very thoughts. Such 
was their terror when his heart was thus torn with grief. But 
it is the news of Indra jit's death that causes him the greatest 
grief. For, unique was the love that he had for this son : and 
unique the pride that he felt in his prowess and achievements. 
People knew the intensity of his love so well that those who 
brought the news from the field trembled and shook ' to the very 
root of their teeth,' and just stuttered out the words ' Thy son 
has fallen today '. The tapasvins and the Devas and the 
Devadasis and others who stood by his side vanished from there, 
fearing that in the first paroxysm of grief and anger Ravana 
would surely end the world. When he heard the words, his eyes 
flashed fire, and he drew his sword and with one fell sweep he 
beheaded the messengers who brought him the news. Such was 
the madness of his wrath and grief. 

He then fell down on the ground, and ' boiling like the churned 
ocean when it vomitted forth the poison,' he bewailed the loss 
of his son thus : 

He would cry out ' O my child ! ' ; he would call out ' O 
my great son ! ' Now again he would cry, ' O my life, do 
I yet live when thou art dead ? ' He would ask, ' Has Indra 
been avenged ? ' and again, ' did the doomed Devas shout 
in triumph at his fall ? ' and once again, ' are Shiva and the 
thief who has taken refuge in the Sea of Milk now freed for 
ever of their terror ? ' 1 

The poet then puts one lament each into each of the ten 
mouths of Ravana. Though this looks rather too artificial, there 
are some fine thoughts in these stanzas which are worth being. 
placed before the reader : 

1 VI xxviii 7, 10, 11. 


With one mouth he would call out ' O child ! ' With 
another he would ask, ' Shall I yet sit on the throne and rule ? ' 
With the third mouth he would accuse himself saying, 'O 
thou of powerful arms, can I continue to live who have 
delivered thee over to the foe ? ' 

Another mouth would lament, ' Thou hast not embraced 
me, O son, with thy powerful and beautiful arms ; while 
another would cry aloud, ' shall a deer eat up a tiger cub ? ' 

With another mouth he would exclaim, ' Art thou really 
dead, my son ? I have lost in thee the best of friends. Is it 
guile or treachery that overcame thee ? ' And then he would 
say, ' Wilt thou not come to me ? ' And then again, ' I have 
become alone, all alone ! My heart breaks and fear has seized 
on me ! ' 

With another he lamented, ' Death must have lacked 
courage to face thee and take thy life away, O son of 
measureless valour ! To what other world then hast thou 
gone unknown even to me ? ' 1 

After bewailing thus at his palace, Ravana rose and went 
to the battle-field to search for the body of his son. 

He searched the heaps of the slain for the body of his 
son. After a long search he found his mighty arm, its grip 
of the bow not loosened, though it was severed from the trunk. 
Tears fell down his cheeks and his heart melted at the sight 
as the ghee in fire. ... He took the arm — long and beautiful 
like the body of a cobra — jingling with the sounds of armlets 
and bangles, and quivers and darts infixed in it, and Dlaced 
it like a holy relic on his head. He would embrace it with 
his arms ; he would put it round his neck ; he would touch 
his eyes with it with great devotion ; he would put it again 
on his head ; he would swoon away ; he would sob again. 
At last he saw the body like a vast ocean and he fell on it 
and wept. He took the body, and with tears welling up from 
his eyes, pressed it to his bosom and groaned. Who has ever 
felt the pangs that he did feel at that time ? 

He would pluck the darts from the body one by one, 
and even break to pieces the darts thus plucked ; he would 
suddenly fall into a swoon ; he would kiss the body and 
embrace it ; he would desire in his wrath to crunch with his 
teeth the sun and all the seven worlds. 2 

i VI xxviii 16, 17, 19, 22. 2 VI xxviii 26-32. 


He then searched for the head, but could not find it anywhere 
upon the field. So he concluded that the men must have carried 
it away ; and the thought pierced his heart as a wound reopened. 
And he once again burst forth in lamentations in this wise : 

' I could the mammoths tame that bear the earth 

Aloft ; I could the hill uproot and lift, 

On which the great God three-eyed sits enthroned ; 

All these were feeble foes enough. Are men 

Alone to be too strong for me ? O fie 

On me that bear this load of shameless life, 

And see them live unscathed, who've killed my son 

And carried off his head ! And I have burnt 

Fair Alaka 1 , and Indra's spacious realms 

As food to fire consigned, and have I ruled 

The worlds without a rival all these days, 

Only with these my eyes to see my child's 

Fair limbs devoured by greedy jackals vile ? 

bitter is my food than food of dogs ! 

Of those who proudly marched to war with him, 

1 see not one alive ; all, all are fallen, 
While, of the foes, the men are yet alive ! 
Nor is that monkey killed ; and many stand 
Unharmed : Is not the valour of Ravan great ? 
If thy Khandarpa, Yaksha, Siddha wives — 
The fairest of the fair, whose very speech 

Is music soft — if they, O son, should come 

And falling at my feet should cry, ' O give 

Us back our lord ! ' shall I my tears join 

With theirs and weep with them, ev'n I who have 

Vanquished the God of Death himself in war ? 

In days gone by I've carried fire and sword 

To Indra's realms, and had them brought beneath 

My sceptre strong ; but now to passion fallen 

A slave, the funeral sacrifices, which 

I' th' course of nature thou shouldst offer me, 

I have to offer thee with mingled tears 

And sighs ! Who's there like me in all the worlds ? ' * 

It now remains for us to consider the valour and exploits 
of Havana. In fact, it is his valour and great prowess and 

1 The capital of Kubera's kingdom. 

2 VI xxviii 35-39. 


invincibility on which the whole story of the epic is based. For, 
it was because the gods could not themselves destroy his 
tyrannical power that they went to Vishnu and prayed to him to 
come down and destroy him, and that He consented to incarnate 
Himself as ' the emperor's holy son '. The power and the 
unrivalled conquests of the Rakshasa loom large over the whole 
background of the Ramayana. When Rama enters the forest, 
Agastya and the other Rishis come and pray to him to free the 
world from Ravana's tyranny saying : 

' For untold years we have been suffering from the 

tyrannous rule of Ravana, who has acquired the sovereignty 

of the three worlds by his endless tapas. Who can overpower 

the mighty Ravana, who makes the Devas flee before him 

and carries away their wives, who makes the very confines 

of the universe resound with the cry of his enemies and 

plunders all their wealth ? . . . We see the Rakshasas spread 

themselves up to the farthest worlds, but nowhere can we 

find the holy Devas. Shiva has loaded the Rakshasas with all 

his blessings and sworn that he would not raise his hand 

against them, while Vishnu has been often defeated by them. 

Brahma is able to get on with his work only by flattering 

them, and the sun and other planets are only lately released 

from their prisons in the land of the Rakshasas. ' l 

It is with these and similar exploits behind him that Ravana 

comes before us in the Ramayana. And so it is that the hyperbolic 

language, which Kamban puts into Ravana's mouths and of others 

concerning his prowess and exploits, does not sound incongruous 

or absurd but quite consistent with his character and stature. 

We shall take one case as an instance. In his interview in 

Janasthan, just before revealing himself, Ravana says to Sita : 

' Dost thou want the Meru Hill to be uprooted, or the 
vault of heaven to be broken, or the ocean to be stirred to 
its depths, or the fire in its bosom to be extinguished, or even 
the earth to be lifted on high ? Which of these is impossible 
to Ravana, whose words are few but deeds are mighty and 
many. Who dost thou take Ravana to be, O innocent one ? ' 2 

Though ordinarily speaking, this is the language of wild 
exaggeration, we feel no incongruity even as we find none in the 

1 These are six poems which are to be found in some editions of;> 
Kamba Ramayana between the 14th and 15th poems in Book III 
padalam Hi. 

2 III viii 62. 

R A V A N A 257 

battles of the Angels in the Paradise Lost, where 

" Millions of fierce encountering angels fought 
On either side, the least of whom could wield 
These elements and arm him with the force 
Of all their regions." 

And our poet has, by his grand style as well as by the attitude 
he gives to other characters in the presence of Ravana, succeeded 
in giving the impression of reality to these hyperbolic descriptions 
of the valour and power and physical strength of the Rakshasa. 
The reader will remember readily the contrivances that KamDan 
makes in order to create this impression. We shall, therefore, 
give here the translation of but one passage out of the many 
scattered in all parts of the Ramayana and especially the Yuddha 
Kanda, the cumulative effect of all which passages is to make 
more distinct and to intensify the impression. 

After the Vanara army had crossed over to Lanka, Rama 
sends an ultimatum to Ravana asking him either to deliver Sita or 
come out and fight. It is Angada, the son of Vali, that was 
selected to go and deliver the ultimatum personally to Ravana, 
for Rama said : 

' If this time too we send our Hanuman, 

Our foes will think there's none besides him here 

In all our host to dare the Rakshas power, 

And fearless enter Lanka town. I wish 

That Angad go today ; for, even if forced 

To fight, he has the valour, force to force 

To meet, and safely to our side return.' l 

Angada made his respects, and springing into the air like a 
lion, he flew into Lanka with the swiftness of Rama's arrow, 
brimming with joy with the thought, 

" Now who of all the Vanaras are like 
To me, for with his holy lips my Ram 
Has said, ' If Hanuman is not to go, 
Whom can we send but Angada ? ' " 2 

When Angada dashed through the streets of Lanka, the 
Rakshasas fled in terror, believing him to be Hanuman come back 
to desolate their city once again. Such was the appearance and 

1 VI xiii 9. 1 VI xiii 13. 



powerful aspect of the mighty son of Vali. But this hero, when 
he sees Ravana seated, listening to the accounts received of his 
foes and inspecting with pride his army as it was marching to 
the field, wonders at his strength and thinks within himself in 
this wise : 

' We pride ourselves upon our having crossed 

Yon puny strait, and what have we but stones 

And trees with which to fight ? Has e'en the God 

Of Death the force to vanquish him ? Then who 

Can meet the Rakshasa of the shining arms 

Upon the field on equal terms ? I see 

A feeble ray of hope in Rama's bow. 

But that I see that he has come to battle 

In person, who did with a single dart 

My father's chest pierce through — my father great 

Who triumphed o'er this Ravana himself — 

Can I believe there lives a living man 

Or God who can defeat this mighty giant ? ' 1 

And then Angada impresses on us the same idea by another 
turn of thought. He continues : 

' Who has the might to kill this Rakshasa, 
Though broken by his unrequited passion ? 
And so I think that none is stronger than 
My uncle brave, who yesterday did spring 
On him and tore from off his crown the gems, 2 
As Garud tears its gem from the cobra's hood ! ' 3 

We have now described the main traits of Ravana's character, 
so far as is possible within the limits of space we have fixed 
ourselves. We shall close the study of the great enemy of Rama 
with a short description of the two great battles which he fights 
with him. 

When Angada returned from the palace of Ravana he told 
Rama, in reply to his inquiry about the success of his embassy, 

' His passion wil not bate till all his heads 
Do roll upon the ground.' 4 

and so Rama gave his final orders for the battle. 

1 VI xili 16, 17. 2 See page 250. 

3 VI xiii 13. * VI xiii 43. 

R A V A N A 25£ 

Rocks and tree-trunks were, in accordance with his 
instructions, thrown in the moat surrounding Lanka town, and 
.a bridge made for the Vanara army to march up to and escalade 
the walls of the city. They were divided into four divisions, 
each of which marched and established their line at the four gates 
of the city. The scouts of each of these divisions sprang upon 
the walls and attacked with roots and trunks of trees the divisions 
of the enemy as they were marching out. The enemy's soldiers 
dislodged these scouts from the walls with great difficulty, and 
at length found themselves face to face with the divisions of Rama 
in the great plains outside their city. 

The fight began on all sides in right earnest. Rocks and 
stones and trees were flung fiercely by the Vanara heroes against 
the Rakshasas, while the Rakshasas used their bows and swords, 
maces and lances, with terrific effect against the Vanaras. 
Elephants and horses rolled down on the ground, their blood 
running in streams to the ocean, chariots were broken to pieces, 
and Rakshasa heads were piled one over another like mountain 
boulders. The Vanaras fell in thousands and tens of thousands, 
and their bodies floated down to the sea in the very stream formed 
of their blood. Angada and Sugriva, Nila and Jambhavan, and 
Hanuman fought fiercely, and the Vanaras under their commands 
annihilated the Rakshasa armies on all the four fronts. 

The Rakshasa messengers brought to Ravana the news of the 
failure of the armies under Durmukha, Suparsu, Vajramushti, and 
Prahasta. Ravana was stung with shame to hear that the despised 
monkeys were able to destroy the warriors that had conquered 
worlds after worlds in the past. He exclaimed : 

" Did monkeys beat the veteran Rakshasa troops 
Who brought down Indra's flag ? The word does burn 
My heart like ghee-fed fire ! The Vanar mites 
To beat the Rakshasas of the rock-like arms ! 
Well have the wise declared, ' Think not that fire 
Or foes are weak, but ever keep them down.' " l 

So saying, he ordered reinforcements to march out immediately 
to the support of his broken armies, and himself made preparations 
to take the field in person. 

He did the battle-car ascend to which 

Were yoked one thousand stallions fleet. It was 

r ) 

i VI xiv 91, 92. 


The car that Indra left as prize, when he 
Did flee before the Rakshas arms, and which 
Had flown over heaven, a symbol of Ravan's pride 
And sovereignty unrivalled. Ocean-like 
Was its grand reverberating roll. His bow 
Was by his side, the bow which he, before 
He took, had worshipped with devotion deep. 
Can we at all describe in words its force, 
When the God of Death himself with terror dies, 

Whenever he hears its twang 7 

Although the tuneful Vina was the sign 

Upon his banner bright, his standard did 

O'ershadow all the universe and seemed 

To lick the heaven and earth like Yama's tongue. 1 

He took all the divine weapons that past austerities had. 
armed him with, and marched to the northern front. When Rama 
was informed that Ravana had come to the field, he also put on 
his armour and girded his sword, and bow in hand, he left the 
camp from where he was watching the fight, and approached 
the fighting line with the choicest of his troops. 

In the meantime, the fight between the reinforcements of 
Ravana and the Vanara troops was fierce and awful. There was 
great carnage on both sides. When Ravana at length arrived on 
the field and twanged his mighty bow, even the Rakshasas 
trembled at that resonant twang ; what then of the Vanaras ? 
Even the Devas were filled with terror, as if they heard the 
thunder of the Day of Deluge. The Vanaras turned and fled. But 
Sugriva who was there lifted a big boulder and aimed it straight 
at the Rakshasa. It came whirling through the air giving out 
sparks of fire, but one arrow from Ravana's bow broke it into 
fragments and it fell harmless. Seeing that, Sugriva tore a tree 
by the roots, as if tearing the very bowels of the Earth-Goddess, 
but, before he could aim it, the enemy sent an arrow which cut 
it into a thousand pieces, even in the hands of Sugriva. The latter 
then lifted a huge rock and hurled it on the foe, but even that 
met the same fate as the previous one. Before he could do 
anything further, Ravana sent a shower of arrows and buried, them 
into his mighty frame, and he fell exhausted. 

But just at that time, Hanuman, who had been fighting on 
the western front, came to know of Sugriva's condition, even as if 
he had been all the while by his side, and rushed to his help* 

1 VI xiv 95, 96, 101. 


in a trice. And then, saying : 

.'Wouldst thou show thy skill and battle with me, O 

Rakshasa, the while Sugriva gets ready to resume the fight ? ' * 
he lifted bodily a huge hillock and hurled it against Havana with 
his arm, true like Veda's self. Ravana looked fiercely on him, 
and saying, ' Come on for thy share ', sent simultaneously against 
it the arrows which blew it into atoms. Hanuman broke another 
mountain peak and aimed against one of Ravana's arms with all 
his force. It struck the arm true, but broke to pieces the moment 
it touched it. Such was the strength of Ravana's arm. Indignant 
at his failure to make an impression on the Rakshasa's body, 
Hanuman was taking a larger rock, but Ravana sent his terrific 
darts and pierced Hanuman's body with them. 

Hanuman, however, stood his ground firm, and while the . 
Devas were wondering whether any mortal being could have such 
endurance, he tore up a tree by its roots and sent it whirling 
against Ravana. The tree struck the charioteer and felled him 
down, and ricochetted and killed other Rakshasas besides. 
Another charioteer took the place of the fallen Rakshasa ; Ravana 
sent a heavier rain of arrows which buried themselves all over 
Hanuman's body and put him out of action for a time, while blood 
flowed in torrents from his wounds. As Hanuman sank on the 
ground, Ravana exclaimed : 

' Think ye with stones and trees, and hairy arms 
And fists, and shining teeth and empty words, 
To vanquish Rakshas might ? When I have come, 
(Though tarnished is my glory when I face 
Such puny foes) and send my iron hail 
Against ye, can ye hope t' escape with life ? ' 2 

But, not desiring to aim at a foe already stricken down, 
Ravana aimed millions of darts against the Vanara troops which 
had reformed in the rear. The troops were agitated terribly, even 
as a sea that is agitated by storms. Now Lakshmana, who was 
in the rear, advanced to meet Ravana, like a Meru Hill armed with 
a bow. At the sound of his bow-string, the Rakshasa army fled 
as herd of elephants at the roar of a lion. He sent his arrows 
against Ravana, but the veteran troops of Ravana formed 
themselves as a guard before him and gave battle to Lakshmana. 
They were, however, destroyed by the unceasing rain of arrows 

1 VI xiv 133. 8 VI xiv 139. 


from the bow of Lakshmana. Chariots and elephants, horses an* 
Rakshasas rolled one upon another, stricken by his cobra-like 
darts. Even the Devas could not say whether he was still aiming 
or whether he was discharging the arrows from his bow. The 
lances and maces and other arms aimed against him by the- 
Rakshasas were all broken to pieces by his arrows. 

Down fell the Rakshas heroes bold upon 

The field, some struck by Lakshmana's fiery darts, 

And some by the severed heads of their own friends. 

The bow of Lakshmana won its laurel crown 

On that day of days, while fiercely burned the Are, 

Named Ravana's heart, at triumph of his foe. 1 

So Ravana faced Lakshmana and employed all his bowman's 
skill against him, but could make no impression on him. 
Lakshmana was able to parry all his weapons, ordinary and divine. 
While they were still engaged, Hanuman recovered from his swoon, 
and striding up between the two combatants addressed Ravana- 
thus : 

' 'Tis true thou, vanquished hast the triple worlds 
By thy might that knew no waning ; and thou hast 
Destroyed the glory of the King of Heaven, 
And spread thy rule to th' ends of th' universe ! 
But this day, Rakshasa, will be thy last ! ' 2 

So saying, he took the gigantic shape which he showed to* 
Sita, and challenged Ravana again in this wise : 

' Thou art a skilful wielder of the bow, 
And sword and mace, and every weapon of war. 
Thou art a master of the warrior's art, 
And great's thy fame for valour and for strength. 
But if thou dare to fight with me with fists, 
With one blow of my fist I will destroy 
Thy strength and skill and fame, and valour high 
Renowned ! Why waste more words ? Although thy 

Could not be shaken by the mammoths eight, 
Or Shiva's hill, canst thou forsooth, escape 
Alive when thou my matchless Vanar blows 

1 VI xiv 155. 2 VI xiv 161. 


Receivest ? If thou die not when I my blows 
Deliver, thou may'st, O thou of the rock-like arms, 
Return my blow with all thy might, and then, 
If I remain alive, I shall no more 
Challenge thee on the field.' 1 

This was the first time, after Hanuman had burned Lanka, that 
Ravana saw him face to face and within ear-shot. While he was 
filled with anger for the injuries that he had done to Lanka as 
well as to Rakshasa prestige, Ravana admired his courage, and 
cleverness, and prowess, and so he addressed him in these words : 

' Thou speakest like a hero, O mighty ape ! 

Who else but thee can fearless stand before 

My presence stern ? Thy glory is as great 

As th' universe itself : Can aught besides 

Contain thy fame ? Though thou hast killed my kin, 

And I do sit upon my chariot, bow 

In hand, surrounded by my army vast, 

Unarmed thou stand'st defying me ! Where is 

Thy peer in all the worlds, O hero great ? 

What god or Danava or mortal man 

Will dare to challenge me, unless they 're seized 

With madness ? E'en the Three Supreme have not 

The nerve to face me thus. And thou dost stand 

Rock-like, and dost invite upon thy chest 

My shattering blow : Can I thy praises sing 

Enough ? ' 2 

So saying, Ravana descended from his car and called on 

Hanuman to use all his force and knock him on the chest. When 

Hanuman clenched his fist and struck on his chest a mighty blow, 

the hills crumbled into their component sand ; sparks 

came out of the eyes of the Rakshasas ; the brains of other 

Rakshasas came out of their heads by the shock of the blow ; 

some others fell down dead ; the teeth of some of the Vanaras 

fell out — the very roots of their hair felt the shock. The 

strings broke in the bows of the Rakshasas ; the sea dashed 

upon the shore causing deep breaches ; the eight royal 

mountains were split and boulders fell from their sides ; the 

sun gave out sparks ; the tusks of the elephants fell down ; the 

1 VI xiv 163-166. 2 VI xiv 167, 169. 


weapons fell out of the hands of the opposing heroes : and 
sparks and jewels fell down from Ravana's chest. 1 

Even Ravana felt the blow and shook like the Mem hill when 
the Storm-God attempted to uproot it. The gods were glad and 
rained flowers on Hanuman, but Ravana soon came to himself and 
praised Hanuman's physical strength in these words : 

' I see there is some strength ev'n outside me, 

And that I find in thee, O mighty one ! 

All else but thee I class eunuchs weak. 

What ! even Brahma cannot shake me, though 

He sends his curse with all his spirit's force ! 

I own thou hast defeated me ! There is 

But one test more. If thou canst bear my blow — 

The blow which on thy chest like a thunderbolt 

Will falling strike — and after that remain 

Alive, then thou canst say that there is none 

In all the world to equal thee ; no foe 

Would dare to challenge thee and thou wouldst live 

For ever and for ever.' 2 

But Hanuman said : 

' Hast thou not conquered me when thou art yet 
Alive unscathed ? I do commend thy strength ! 
Now take thy even chance.' 3 

and bared his chest to the Rakshasa. Ravana clenched his teeth, 
made firm his mouths and pressed his lips, and, with eyes dropping 
fire, clenched his fists and struck a blow on Hanuman's broad 
expansive chest from which at once flew sparks of fire. Hanuman 
reeled at the blow. 

And when he reeled, the gods in heaven reeled, 
And Dharma, Truth and Nobleness did reel, 
And reeled the Vedas, Justice, Fame, and Ruth ! 4 

But just at that minute, the Vanara heroes came on with rocks 
and rained them on Ravana. The very sun was concealed from 
sight and darkness set in — so thick was the shower of the stones 

1 VI xiv 174, 175. 2 VI xiv 181, 182. 

3 VI xiv 183. 4 VI xiv 185. 


which the Vanaras aimed at their foe. The Devas believed that 
the Rakshasas would be ended that very moment. But Ravana 
bent his bow and, quick as thought, aimed millions of darts against 
them and broke their force and saved himself and his army. He 
rested not there. Swearing that he would end the Vanara crew 
and the men that day, he sent an endless shower of iron rain 
which wrought dire destruction in the Vanara army. Nala, 
Gavaya, Angada, Jambhavan — al] fell pierced by the lance-like 
darts of Ravana. ' . 

Lakshmana saw the plight of his army and its leaders, and 
faced Ravana in right earnest. He parried the darts of Ravana 
without missing even one, and thus saved the remnants of his 
army. He then sent ten powerful arrows and cut down the ten 
bows in the ten hands of his foe. The Devas were glad. Dharma 
burst forth into songs of triumph and even Ravana admired the 
skill of Lakshmana. He said addressing him : 

' Grand is thy prowess, grand thy skill in war, 
And grand thy valour, and the lightning quickness 
Of thine arm ! I do commend thy aspect stern, 
And mastery of the bowman's art. And who 
Is there to equal thee but he, thy brother, 
Who brought the Rakshasas with Khara down 
In Dhandak forest the other day, or he 
My son, who with his single bow could break 
Devendra's might, or I myself thy foe ? ' 1 

And then, thinking that it would be impossible to defeat 
Lakshmana with any weapon that could be propelled by the bow, 
Ravana took the lance that Brahma had given him in the days 
gone by, and hurled it with all his force against Lakshmana. But 
before Lakshmana could think of any weapon that could overpower 
it, it struck him in the chest and laid him low on the field, to 
the terror of the Devas and the Rishis and to the joy of the 
Rakshasas. Seeing, however, that Lakshmana was not killed, 
Ravana desired to capture him prisoner. So he descended from 
the chariot and attempted to lift him with all his twenty arms. 
But Lakshmana, who was conscious, realised his oneness with the 
Infinite One, and then even the arms that lifted Shiva with his 
Kailas Mount were powerless to move him ! Exhausted by his 
fruitless endeavour, Ravana just moved from the place in order 

i VI xiv 203, 204. 


to rest his hands a little. At once Hanuman, who was watching, 
everything, sprang to where Lakshmana was, and armed with the 
power of love, lifted him up as if he were a child, and dashed 
away to the rear. 

Rama now came to the front and engaged with his mortal 
foe. But Hanuman safely deposited Lakshmana in the rear, and 
ran to Rama and begged him to ride upon his shoulders ' though 
they are not worthy '. Seeing the ease with which Hanuman was 
bearing Him, who in three steps measured the worlds, ' evqrt 
Garuda hung down his head ' : 

Hanuman was the Sea of Milk, and Ram 
Was Vishnu riding o'er its waves, The son 
Of Vayu was the eternal Ved, and Ram 
Was jnan that e'er resides upon the crown 
Of Ved ! 1 

The twanging of Rama's bow was like the attahasa 2 of Rudra,. 
when on the Day of Dissolution He devours the earth and the 
sea, and the sky with all that exists. The Rakshasas were stunned, 
unable to move from their places. Their tongues were parched 
and they trembled, and then they fled. The marshalled worlds 
shook in terror, and even Brahma and Shiva were afraid. 

Meantime, Ravana sent against Rama seven darts, fierce as 
the Are of the Day of Destruction, whose force was enough to 
drink the ocean dry, break the earth and pierce the vault of 
heaven. Rama parried them with an equal number of arrows, 
and aimed five darts against Ravana which gave out sparks 
making ashamed even the Kalagni — the fire of the Final Day. 
The battle then engaged in right earnest. The Rakshasas around 
Ravana also aimed their arrows and lances and stones against 
Rama, but he parried them all and destroyed the Rakshasa's 
army wholesale. Hanuman kept pace with the enemy's chariot 
with ease and did not give any advantage to the enemy even for 
a moment. 

Before one could say, ' he is on the ground,' he would 
be high up in the air ; wherever Ravana or his soldiers 
turned their eyes, there they would see Hanuman sure and 
certain carrying Rama upon his shoulders. For he was 
swifter even than Rama's thoughts that flew in advance of 
his darts. 3 

1 VI xiv 221. 2 ro ar. 3 VI xiv 232. 

HAVANA 267 ' 

The battle-field became veritable shambles ; the spirits who 
live on corpses danced for joy ; rivers of blood were flowing 
inexhaustible, carrying the severed heads, trunks and bodies of 
elephants and horses and men. The Rakshasa women were 
lamenting for their dead husbands, and embracing the dead 
bodies, themselves died as satis upon the battle-field itself. 

At length, Death masquerading as Rama's darts had destroyed 
all the Rakshasas upon the field excepting alone Ravana. Ravana 
boiled with rage and drawing the bowstring with all his force 
buried two terrific darts in Rama's arms. But Rama only 
smiled, and aimed at his enemy's bow and broke it into two. 
Ravana took another bow, but before he could bend it, Rama 
again sent a shower of arrows which cut off the heads of his 
horses, brought down his Umbrella of Victory, and tore open his 
armour. Another chariot drew up behind him, but he was not 
destined to ascend it. Rama's fiery arrows tore it to pieces, and 
Ravana could only view him with concentrated fury. But Yama 
himself trembled at his scowl. 

Then Rama with his invincible arrows broke the diadems 
on Ravana's heads, who now looked like the night without the 
moon or the day without the sun. 

He also looked like kings who though they stand 
Unrivalled in their wealth and sovereign power, 
Straightway their honour and their name do lose,. 
The moment noble poets send their shafts 
Of stinging satire. 1 

And as he stood unarmed, his arms hanging loose like the 
shoots of a banyan tree, his toes scratching the ground, his faces 
and heads shorn of their lustre as of their ornaments, his eyes 
looking down upon the ground, while all the worlds were 
exultingly saying ' this is the fate of those who go against 
Dharma ', Rama took pity on his plight and desisted from killing 
him, but at the same time he addressed him the stinging words 
that we have translated in another connection. 2 

So ended the opening battle of the war in which Ravana 
intended to put an end to his foe. 

After this battle, as the reader will remember, Ravana did 
not come to the battle-field for many days. He had 
Kumbhakarna waked up, and sent him to the field. When he 
died, Atikaya offered to lead the army himself, and when he ■ 

1 VI xiv 249. 2 See page 64. 


also fell, Indrajit chid Ravana for not sending him earlier, and 
took the responsibility of the command and led his great attacks 
on the Vanara army. On his fall, Ravana sent word to all the 
Rakshasa colonies all over the universe and assembled a big 
army— rhis whole reserve force — and dashed it against the enemy 
and himself took the field. Rama opposed the reserve forces 
single-handed, detailing Lakshmana and his army to face Ravana. 
The reader will remember how Ravana sent his lance against 
Vibhishana, and how Lakshmana bared his breast to it. When 
Lakshmana fell pierced by the lance, Ravana returned 
triumphantly to the city believing Lakshmana to be dead. He 
also expected that his immense reserve would bring him an easy 
victory. But the reserve was destroyed by the wonderful bow- 

• craft of Rama, while Lakshmana and the fallen army were 
resuscitated by the drugs brought for a second time by 
Hanuman. Kamban describes the battles with the reserve forces 
in 235 stanzas with his usual power and verve, but space forbids 
us to even summarise that description to our reader. At length 
there was nothing left for Ravana but his guard, and he 
determined to lead them in person. 

But if nothing remained in Lanka except the guard, the 
guard were an immense and most powerful force, and it was 
Ravana in his fury that now led them. 

He put on the golden armour that Brahma had created at 
a great sacrifice, and which had been a trophy won by himself 
from Indra. He wore the anklets round his left ankle, at whose 
sound the worlds trembled as at the sound of thunder. He girded 
on his trusty sword and threw over his back the inexhaustible 
quiver of arrows to which the waters and sands, and fish of the 
sea and even science 1 were too small for comparison. He put. 
on his pearl and diamond garlands, and walking out of his 
palace under the shade of his pearl-umbrella, he ascended his 
war-chariot. The thousand horses yoked to the chariot were of 
the highest breed — being descended, some from Uchchaishvanas, 
' the divine-horse that came along with ambrosia at the churning 
of the ocean of milk, some from the horses drawing the chariot 

• of the sun, and some born to the Storm-God in the womb of the 
< Ocean Fire. Drawn by such horses, 

The car could run upon the land or sail 
The sea ; it could ascend the sky and fly 

i Knowledge. 

HAVANA 269 1 

V th' air ; it could the fire cross unscathed ; 
And in a trice it could ascend to the world 

Of Brahma's self ! and, 

It was the home of Victory. ! 1 

He blessed the car with many a flower thrown, made gifts- 
to innumerable brahmans, generous beyond the dream of avarice, . 
and ascended the car exclaiming : 

' Or Janaki shall beat her breasts today 

And mourn her Ram with dishevelled hair, or poor 

Mandodari shall fall upon my corpse 

And rend her breast in unconsolable grief ! 

So fierce shall be my fight if Rama cross 

My path today ! ' 2 

He then smacked his arms in the manner of wrestlers, and 
at the thundering sound the vault of the sky clove into two, the 
mountains split, the earth felt as if a wound was opened in her 
side, and even the sun fled from his golden car. He twanged 
his bow in high joy at the coming final fight, and at the terrible 
twang the hills burst to pieces and the Danava and Deva women 
touched their Mangal 3 strings fearing danger for their lords. 
And then proudly bearing himself like the thousand-headed 
Adishesha, to the terror of all beholders, he drove his chariot to 
the battle-field surrounded by his troops. The Supreme One 
and all the immortals saw the ocean agitated, the Devas filled 
with terror, and every living thing shaken with dread at the 
furious aspect of the Rakshasa. 

Vibhishana informed Rama of Ravana's appearance in the 
car at the head of a vast army, and of the flight of the Vanaras 
at his approach, and Rama at once made preparations himself 
to go to the front. He determined not to spare Ravana today. 
He put on his arms and girded on his sword, and saying : 

' This day shall bring an end to Sita's grief 
And suffering of the Gods for once and all.' 4 

he took his bow and quiver of arrows. As he was about to start, 

1 VI xxxiv 20, 23. 2 VI xxxiv 28. 

3 Symbol of the married state for women among Hindus, like the- 
wedding ring. 
* VI xxxv 2. 


Matali the charioteer of Indra brought him the car of Indra at 

the command of Shiva and the Devas. 

Is it the chariot of the Sun ? Is it 

The overpowering light that is to shine 

On Dissolution's Day or can it be 

The Meru hill ? This car is larger far, 

More brilliant. May this be the peerless car 

Which in its bosom bears the Three Supreme ? 1 

Its inside was filled with innumerable divine drugs that could 
heal any wound or cut, and its roll was like that of the sea when 
the storm beats on, and tides on tides drive one against another 
upon its bosom. 

In answer to Rama's enquiry, Matali told him that the Devas 
sent him the chariot of Indra in order that he might fight on 
equal terms with Ravana who was riding his miraculous car. A 
suspicion . rose in the mind of Rama that this might be a trick 
of Ravana, but the conscious horses yoked to the car chanted 
the Vedas in order to dispel the suspicions of Rama. Rama 
looked at Lakshmana and Hanuman, and asked them what they 
thought of it. And when they said that Matali's words could be 
believed, he ascended the car and steered against the Rakshasa. 

Ravana bit his lips when he saw that the Devas had sent 
Indra's car to his enemy, and determining to take his revenge 
on them after finishing Rama, he ordered his charioteer to direct 
his car straight on him. The Vanara army that had fled at the 
sight of Ravana, now reformed and advanced without fear when 
they saw the miraculous car of Indra come to Rama, and believed 
that now that Rama was equally equipped and armed, Ravana 
was sure to be defeated at his hands. The Vanaras began their 
battle with their usual weapons. But Mahodara prayed to 
Ravana to permit him to engage Rama, and asked him to contain 
Lakshmana and his troops on the other side. Ravana agreed 
and turned towards Lakshmana's front. But Mahodara could 
not long stand against Rama and soon fell struck by a single 
arrow of Rama.' Ravana, therefore, hastened towards Rama who 
destroyed the Rakshasas in their millions. Of the others, those 
that did not fly away stood apart, and Rama and Ravana faced 
each other at length, even as Wisdom and Evil Deeds, as 
Knowledge and Ignorance, as Righteousness and Sin in their final 

l VI xxxv 17. 


conflict. They looked as Garuda, the King of eagles, and 
Adishesha of the thousand hoods engaged in mortal cambat ; and 
like two of the mammoths bearing the universe ready to dash 
against each other ; and even as Vishnu and Shiva fighting as 
to who is more powerful. 

Ravana blew his conch that was ever used, by the thunder 
of its resonance, to create trepidation and terror in the hearts of 
gods. But then, without Rama's knowing it, his five divine 
weapons had taken their place by his side in the car, and his 
Panchajanya 1 now" sounded of its own accord, feeling jealous of 
Havana's conch. 

Matali also sounded the conch of Indra, making the heaven, 
and sea, and the mountains tremble. The sound of Panchajanya 
and Indra's conch delighted the hearts of the Devis of heaven 
and they turned on Rama the arrows named their glances, even 
before Ravana's darts began to shower on him. 

The twang of Ravan's bow was like the roar 
Of all the oceans seven heard at once : 
While twang of Kodanda 2 was like the chant 
Of Ved Eternal on the Final Day. 3 

Even Hanuman and the other leaders were terror-stricken 
at the sight of Ravana and his host. They were filled with 
despair not knowing what to do or where to turn. Ravana's 
war-shout and the sounding of his bow were unbearably terrific. 
The roar of the sea and the thunder of the clouds that are heard 
even now are only the reverberations of that war-shout and 
twang ! He shouted, ' I shall either lift up Rama with his 
divine chariot and dash him to the earth, or destroy his chariot 
with my arrows, powerful as the thunderbolt, and capture him 
prisoner with his bow ! ' So shouting he aimed his arrows in 
veritable showers. They came like thunderbolts- and like fire, 
like death and like rain, and they were longer than the cobra 
that was tied round the Mandara mountain to churn the ocean. 
Rama parried them with a similar shower of arrows aimed with 
equal force. The combined shower 

Did cover the earth and sky, and hills and seas ; 
The eyes of even gods could see in all 

i Vishnu's divine conch is called Panchajanya. 

2 Rama's bow. 3 VI xxxvi 35. 


The world naught but these iron-shafts. Can' ev'n 
Men of Wisdom ever count them ? Darkness spread 
All o'er the universe and there was fire 
Burning all living kind — such was the fight 
Of Ravana and Ram. And even Shiv 
Wondering, did exclaim, ' Was ever fight 
Like this ? ' » 

As Rama parried and destroyed with his arrows all the 
darts that Ravana aimed against him, the latter thought he should 
try other weapons, and so he hurled lances and axes and maces 
against Rama. But they too were cut into pieces by Rama's 
sharp-pointed arrows. Rama now buried ten darts into the body 
of Ravana, who, furious like the elephant goaded by the steel- 
goad, rose into the sky with his chariot. From the sky he 
showered a hail-storm of arrows against Rama and the Vanara 
army, and so Rama ordered Matali also to rise up into the sky 
with his car. And lo, it came over that of Ravana even as the 
globe of the sun over that of moon. The chariots now made 
their evolutions in the air, each warrior trying to take the other 
at a disadvantage. The evolutions were so rapid that even the 
gods could not tell which was Rama's car, and which the 
Rakshasa's. Meteors fell down, dashed against by the wheels of 
the chariots. There hill whose summit was not broken, 
no direction that escaped from the conflagration set in by the 
arrows and astras of the combatants, no living being that did 
not vomit blood in terror. 

The chariots steered over the seven oceans and the continents 
seven, over the seven royal mountain ranges, and over the seven 
worlds. The walls of the universe were the only limit they 
respected. They pursued each other like the whirlwind 
and the thunderstorm, and yet the horses were not tired on 
each side. 

Ravana at length saw his opportunity and sent a crescent- 
shaped arrow, which, however, only succeeded in carrying away 
the thunderbolt which was the standard flying on Indra's car. 
With the same breath, he buried his darts in the heart of Matali 
and on the bodies of his horses, and aimed a terrible flight of 
arrows against Rama himself. Rama was quite invisible to the 
eyes of the Devas, so innumerable were the arrows that Ravana 
aimed at him. The Devas wept saying, ' Alas ! Rama is 

i VI xxxvi 50. 


conquered ! ' The Rakshasas shouted for joy, and the universe 

The God of fire his lustre lost and heat ; 

The Sea unmoving stood without a wave ; 

The sun his chariot stopped in heaven ; the moon 

Moved not ; and even rain-clouds were dried up 

I' th' sky. 1 

Even Vanara leaders and Lakshmana trembled for the fate 
of Rama. But Rama was not injured ; he only showed his 
nonchalance by his leisureliness. At length, he surprised both 
friends and foes by the rapidity with which he broke up the 
screen of arrows which appeared to have all but destroyed him. 
And the Devas recovered from their despair. As the standard 
fell from Rama's car, Garuda himself fit ,v and settled on the 
staff as the living standard of Rama. 

Ravana then sent against Rama the astra called Tamasa, 
which came in the shape 

Of arrows tipped with fire and blood, of darts 
With face of Asuras and gods and spirits, 
And cobras of the crooked fangs. They came 
As darkness black, and eye-dazzling light, as rain 
And thunder, and a veritable shower 
Of iron hail. 2 

But when Rama sent the astra named of Shiva, the power 
of the Tamasa failed. Ravana then sent 

The Astra named the Asura which had 

In former days the name of gods destroyed, 

And maw of Yama surfeited with lives. 

It was the arm 'fore which the king of heav'n 

Had fled in terror. 3 

But the Agni-astra — the weapon named of fire — aimed by 
Rama burned it before it could reach him. After trying the 
weapon forged by Maya which also failed, broken by the 
Gandharva-astra of Rama, Ravana 

1 VI xxxvi 80. 2 VI xxxvi 90, 92. 3 VI xxxvi 97. 



Now threw the mace on Ram with which in days 
Of yore great Daruka had felled the gods : 
(The four-faced god had forged it by his art ; 
The Asuras, fierce Hiranya and Madku, 
Had tamed their foes with its almighty force.) 1 

Everybody thought that Rama's end had come. The mace 
tame with a force that made the very Meru Hill tremble, 
destroying all that crossed its way in space. But one dart from 
Rama's bow was able to break that divine mace into fragments. 

Ravana now sent the Maya-astra, the weapon of illusion, 
against Rama. And behold, all the Rakshasas dead in previous 
battles appeared to have come back to life and to be advancing 
on Rama and the Vanara forces with terrific war-shouts. There 
was Indrajit and Atikaya and the other commanders of the 
Rakshasa armies up to the very reserve forces that fell only the 
previous day, all rushing with arms and shouting : 

' Hast thou forsooth defeated us ? And dost 
Believe that we could die ? Thou'lt see our fight 
This day ! Advance, Advance ! ' 2 

The gods and rishis believed the illusion true and were 
"thunderstruck to see alive the Rakshasas who had been destroyed 
by their defenders. Rama was also put out and asked Matali 
what he could do. Matali told him that it was illusion and would 
be destroyed the moment he sent a dart pronouncing the Supreme 
Name of himself. Rama, therefore, pronounced his own name 
and sent a dart presided over by the Spirit of Wisdom and 
behold, the Maya of Ravana was broken. 

The triple lance of Shiva was then hurled by Ravana, which 
came flaming through the air, spreading a weird light over all 
things and terrifying the gods. The arrows that Rama aimed 
against it, all fell powerless to hurl it, and it came on and on, 
and nearer and nearer Rama. When even divine weapons could 
not prevail against it, Rama stood motionless. The Devas 
trembled to see Rama standing inactive, a target to the terrible 
weapon of Shiva hurled by the foe. Dharma itself was terror- 
struck. But as it struck his chest Rama pronounced the symbolic 
mantra of Hum and lo, the Shula of Shiva broke into fragments ! 
Seeing the exhibition of this divine power of Rama, Ravana 
exclaimed : 

1 VI xxxvi 105, 106. 2 VI xxxvi 115. 


i ' Who can this Kama be ? He is not Shiv, 

Nor Vishnu, nor the Four-faced One divine. 
As for austerities, he looks not strong 
Enough to mortify. his flesh. Is he, 
Perchance, the Universal Cause, of whom 
The Vedas speak ? ' * 

But his valour checks him from considering further as to 
who he might bo. Like Rustom of the Shah Namah he disdains, 
in spite of suspicious appearances, to inquire into the true 
-character of his enemy. 

He, therefore, formed his resolution saying, 

' But be he who he may, 
I will not swerve from war's straight path : I won't 
Withdraw from my warrior's duty plain. I will 
Yet conquer him. E'en should I fall by 'is darts, 
My name for valour undismayed will last 
For ever ! let there be victory or death : 
I turn not back ! ' 2 

So he fought with unabated fury. His Nairriti-astra came 
like millions of cobras spitting venom all over, but the Garudastra 
of Rama turned itself into eagles which bit the cobras to pieces 
and made the venom harmless. After many more astras had 
been aimed and parried, Ravana began to show signs of 
exhaustion, but Rama, who had not put forth half his strength 
up to now, was as fresh as ever, and now began to take the 
offensive. He aimed at one of the necks of Ravana a crescent- 
shaped arrow. It flew with a terrific force and cut and carried 
off a head of his and sunk it into the sea. But behold, 

E'en as the virtuous soul that after death 
Doth take its birth again in a better frame, 
Ev'n so, upon the trunk another head 
Arose, its fury unforgot : is there 
Among endeavours yielding golden fruit 
A higher one than tapas ? 3 

The new head defied Rama in tones of thunder, while that 
which was thrown into the sea was also roaring no less loudly. 

1 VI xxxvi 135. * VI xxxvi 136. 3 VI xxxvi 152. 


Filled with fresh anger against Rama for having shamed him. 
by cutting off one of his heads, Ravana buried into Rama's chest 
a flight of fourteen of his sharpest arrows. But Rama did not 
mind his wounds and sent an arrow which cut off an arm of 
Ravana which fell down, but with its grip on the bow unloosened. 
Ravana took that fallen arm and dashed it against Rama, but it 
struck only Ma tali, who vomitted blood at the shock. And again 
he aimed a tomara against Matali, thinking to destroy him and 
disable Rama from using the car. But Rama's arrows broke it 
on its way and saved the life of his charioteer. 

Ravana now hurled his lance, and mace, and battle-axe 
against the foe. Rama, however, broke or parried them, and 
aimed arrows after arrows against him, which entered his trunk 
and limbs and eyes. Ravana sank exhausted in his chariot. His 
charioteer saw the plight of his master and steered his car back 
towards the rear. Matali advised Rama to kill Ravana even as 
his car was retreating, but Rama with the true chivalry of the 
Indian warrior said, 

' Do not the laws of war, O Matali, 

Forbid the taking of an enemy's life 

When he has thrown away his weapons of war 

And agitated flees for life ? The fight 

Doth end today ! n 

Before the car had retreated far, however, Ravana recovered 
from his swoon, but he did not see Rama in his front. He turned 
back, and found Rama standing in his place like a victorious 
hero. At once he turned furiously on his charioteer, and saying, 

' Thou hast, O villain, turned my chariot back 
And made yon Rama mock my valour 'fore 
The very gods ! Thou hast enjoyed my bounties, 
And yet, though I did put my trust in thee, 
Thou hast by turning back the car, made me 
Appear a coward. Think'st thou I'll spare thy life ? ' 2 

Ravana drew his sword. But the charioteer remonstrated with 
hrni saying, that he had fallen on his seat exhausted, and that if he 
had stayed longer he would have been killed with the darts of 
Rama. He concluded : 

1 VI xxxvi 175. a VI xxxvi 178. 


' The charioteer must judge the condition 
■ Of him who fights from on his car : when sinks 
The hero powerless to continue 
The fight, 'tis the duty of the charioteer 
To save his master's life by wise retreat.' l 

Ravana's anger cooled at these words. He therefore put 
back his sword into the scabbard and ordered his charioteer to 
retrace his steps and drive the car back to the front. He felt 
indeed that his end -was come, but he would not yield in valour 
to Rama. On the contrary, he fought with the strength of 
despair. The bystanders thought that it was another and a 
stronger Ravana that was fighting now, and trembled. Such was 
his new fury. 

But Rama's blood too was up, and he determined, finally, 
to put an end to the Rakshasa. He aimed an arrow at his bow 
which had been given by Brahma, and broke it to pieces in his 
hands. And as Ravana took another bow and showed all his 
usual skill, and varied his attack with lances and maces and 
spears and kappanas, Rama thought that Brahmastra alone could 
end him. So, parrying the enemy's shower of weapons, he took 
the astra, pronounced the appropriate spells, and sent it tearing 
against the chest of Ravana. It flew with a ferocious speed, 
illumining the very ends of the universe, and shaming even the 
Sun of the Final Day by its dazzling light. The Chakra of 
Vishnu, which had also, as the reader will remember, taken its 
place on Rama's car, now joined its force to that of the 
Brahmastra, and impregnated with this twofold force, Rama's 
.arrow struck and entered the mighty chest of Ravana. 

And Ravana fell mortally wounded ! 

The holy dart of Raghava did drink 
His three crore years of mortal life, and all 
. The strength of his austerities ; it quenched 
The blessing Brahma had bestowed on him 
That none should have the power to conquer him ; 
It did the might extinguish which had brought 
The universe beneath his awful sway ; 
And piercing clean his chest, it drank the blood 
And straightway flashed through th' air with lightning 

l VI xxxvi 182. 


Rejoicing in the grateful blessings breath'd 

By Gods and Brahmans true, and followed close 

By the rain of flowers that they did shower all through 

Its path, the dart pursued its way to th' Sea 

Of Milk ; it washed therein its bloody stains, 

And turned, and flying over the waves that played 

On the sea of Ravana's blood, it entered quick 

And hid itself within the quiver of Ram, 

Its eerie home. ' 

So ended the hero of a thousand battles, the most valiant 
hero excepting Rama that epic poetry has ever created or sung. 
Achilles and Hector, ^and even Arjuna and Bhima look like mere 
pigmies when placed beside this giant-king of Lanka. We do 
not speak only of the physical stature that the poet attributes 
to him. His passions and his power, his valour and his pride, 
his prowess and his authority are on the same gigantic scale 
as his vast physical proportions. Milton's Satan is grand indeed 
in his rebellious pride and ambition, in his power and the 
determination of his indomitable will. But all his achievements 
and valour are reserved only for heaven. On earth, he is not 
more than a wily old serpent. And compare Satan's end in Hell 
with Ravana's. Milton describes the end of Satan thus : 

" His visage drawn he felt too sharp and spare ; 
His arms clung to his ribs, his legs entwining 
Each other, till supplanted down he fell 
A monstrous serpent on his belly prone, 

Reluctant, but in vain 

He would have spoke, 

But hiss for hiss returned with forked tongue 
To forked tongue." 

How different is the end of Ravana ! His valour shines to the 
very last, and the crescendo is completed in his short but sublime 
address to the charioteer. And even after he has fallen the 
poet would say, 

but the hero's face 

Even at that awful moment wore a look 
Of majesty, surpassing far the splendour 
Even of days when saints and Rishis had 
To flee for safety from his oppressive rule. 2 

« » VI xxxvi 198, 199. 2 VI xxxvi 201. .. . 


We have, so far, studied all the main characters excepting 
Sita that are directly connected with the destruction of Ravana, 
which is the one action of our epic. We have also seen and 
discussed Kamban's delineation of the heroes of two of his 
grandest episodes, namely Vali' and Hiranyakashipu. Exigencies 
of space prevent us from studying the other characters of the 
story, interesting as they are, except in the manner that we have 
done hitherto, namely by bringing in their traits and doings as 
much as possible in the studies of our main characters. We shall 
close our examination of the characters of the Ramayana by 
discussing Bharata and Sita in this chapter and the next. 

Bharata is, as well as is not, intimately connected with the 
story of the epic. He is connected intimately with our story 
in that his love for Rama gives rise to some of the most touching 
episodes in the epic, and also, chiefly, in that it is for his sake 
that Kaikeyi forces Dasharatha to send Rama to the forest. He 
is not intimately connected with the story in that he is not 
associated with Rama in the destruction of Ravana and his forces. 
But the reader that knows not Bharata misses more than half 
the beauty of the Ramayana, and knows not one of the most just 
and tender-hearted and most touching characters known to story 
or history. 

Bharata, like Lakshmana, does not appear much in the 
Balakanda. There we only hear that he loves Rama with a 
tender love, and that he marries one of the daughters of Janaka's 
brother. It is in the Second Book of the Ramayana that we see 
the whole evolution of his character, while the final touch is 
reserved for the end of the story in the Book of Battles. 

It is the cruel conduct of his mother, Kaikeyi, that brings 
Bharata to prominence in the story, and it is the remembrance 
of that same cruelty that ever after presses heavily upon his 
tender and noble heart. Hence, the reader must know something 
more than what we have given in the second chapter about 
Kaikeyi and her heartless behaviour towards Dasharatha and 

Kaikeyi was not always cruel. In fact, she loved Rama 


very ostentatiously, if not deeply. She was the wife to whom 
Dasharatha was most attached. She, therefore, naturally and 
as a matter of habit, tended and nursed the child on whom was 
set the whole soul of her lord. The beauty and noble qualities 
of Rama must have made Kaikeyi take pride in loving, which 
was the only way of owning, such a child. Rama on his part 
loved her deeply. He never made any difference between his 
own mother Kausalya and her. 

So when Manthara, her favourite maid, tried to poison her 
mind against the coronation of Rama, Kaikeyi reprimanded her 
and even grew indignant. 

When Manthara, filled with jealousy against Rama's and the 
world's happiness, ran to announce to Kaikeyi the sudden news 
of Rama's impending coronation and to rouse her to- oppose it, 
Kaikeyi was half-asleep. So she pressed her feet to rouse her 
from her drowsiness, and when Kaikeyi did not even then rise 
from her bed, she exclaimed : 

' Ev'n as the moon will not abate her light 
Effulgent, up to the very moment when 
The dragon stealeth over to eclipse 
Her face, thou dost, O lovely mistress mine, 
Slumber secure e'en when disaster hangs 
Heavy upon thy head ! ' 1 

Kaikeyi heard the words of Manthara and replied, 

' When all my brave and worthy sons 

Are hale in body and swerve not from the path 

Of righteousness, can e'er disaster come 

On me ? They say, that joy ineffable 

Belongs to them who're blessed with children whom 

The world can never enough commend : can harm, 

O Manthara, approach me ev'r, who have 

Good Rama for a son ? ' 2 

Seeing her wanderings in the realms of impartial love, 
Manthara tried to awaken in her the jealousy natural to a woman 
for her co-wife, and partly succeeded in her attempt. For, when 
she shed crocodile tears saying, 

i ll ii 45. * 2 II a 47. 


' Woe unto thee ! thy days of joy are o'er : 
Tor, deep Kausalya has ascended now 
To the topmost rung of fortune's ladder.' 1 

Kaikeyi replied with hauteur, 

' If the King of kings is still my lord, and if 
Bharat of unsurpassed fame is yet 
My son, wherein is she, Kausalya, better 
Than me ? ' ? 

Pleased with the effect of her first assault, and believing 
that she had broken the defences of her mistress's heart sufficiently 
well, in order to ensure a victory by a simple walk-over, 
Manthara aimed a dart just tipped with a little venom. She said, 

' Thou askest wherein is Kausalya better : 
Only there is a young man who has shamed 
Manhood and earned the laughter of the wise 
By bending 'gainst a woman — Tadaka — 
His well-carved bow. Tomorrow he is to be 
As king of Ayodh crowned ! ' 3 

But the dart fell blunted, for, 

When she announced 

The happy news, Kaikeyi's heart was glad 

Ev'n as Kausalya's motherly heart : she felt 

No jealousy within her heart ; may't be 

Because sweet Rama's father lived within 

The palace of her heart ? A very sea 

Of joy arose within her soul, a light 

As of the full-orbed moon shone on her face ; 

i II ii 48. 

2 II ii 49. In consonance with the noble sentiment Kaikeyi utters in 
the earlier poem, where she exclaims, ' can harm, O Manthara, approach 
me ev'r, who have good Rama for a son ? ' this poem is rendered by some 
commentators as follows : 

' If the King of kings is still her lord, and son, 

Bharat of unsurpassed fame is ber's, 

Than this, what greater fortune here is yet 

For her to reach ? ' 
Thus, the peace and unity which prevails among the queens, and which 
Manthara is now to destroy, is painted vividly in the surrender to Kausalya 
of the king whose favourite is Kaikeyi and of her own Bharata too. (P) 

3 n ii 50. 


And she took out a garland made of gems, 
The brightest of their kind, and threw it round 
Manthara's neck. 1 

Manthara had not negotiated for this — to her mind — 
unnatural joy. She had thought that the announcement of 
Kama's coronation coupled with a slight reference to Kausalya 
as the person who would most profit by it would be sufficient 
to wake up the dormant feelings of rivalry in the heart of 
Kaikeyi. But instead of burning with jealousy that the son of 
another wife was crowned while her own son was away at his 
grandfather's home, here was Kaikeyi so overjoyed at the news 
that she presented a garland of gems herself to Manthara for 
bringing the tidings. So she thought that she should set about 
to lay siege to her heart in a more methodical manner, and 
accordingly put her plan into execution. She, therefore, wept 
and moaned, and wailed, and being a favourite maid, frowned 
at and even abused her loudly and dashed the garland on the 
ground. And then, eying her in wrath, she burst forth in these- 
words : 

' O fool, thou may'st if thou desire, expose 

Thyself along with Bharata, thy child, 

To sufferings of every kind ; but I 

Cannot endure to be the slave of those 

That serve Kausalya, thy cunning co-wife proud. 

If Ram is crowned, thy son will have to sit 

As a common man upon the floor, the while 

His brother with Sita seats himself upon 

Th' Imperial throne ; how comes thy heart to be 

In ecstasies o'er this impending fate ! 

Kausalya has not been unmindful, sure. 

Of her interest and lo, her son will wear 

The crown imperial. Poor Bharata ! 

He is not even dead, he lives ! How can 

He bear the sight ? For the sin of being born 

Thy child, alas, his royal birth has gone 

In vain ! If Rama and his Lakshmana 

Alone will share the glories of the crown, 

'T were better far, for Bharata and his brother 

T' exile themselves to forests dark than dwell 

i II ii 52. 


In fair Ayodh. Our luckless Bharata's name, 
If not destined to shine in the proud list 
Of monarchs of the earth, is it not better 
If he is dead ? I could not then divine, 
But now I see too clearly, why the king 
Did send thy son by long and weary roads 
To far off Kekay. Alas, unfortunate child ! 
My luckless Bharata ! Thy father is turned 
Thy foe, for he is partial to thy brother ; 
And now thy mother too is turned 'gainst thee ! 
What will become of thee ? Of what avail 
To thee are now thy valour, learning, youth, 
Thy beauty, and thy skill in war, and all 
Thy noble traits ? They are like nectar fallen 
Upon the grass : they are a sheer waste .... 

' A daughter of a glorious line of kings 
Thou grew'st in palaces and wedded art 
To the descendant of far-famed line 
Of emperors, thyself a queen from head 
To foot : and yet thou plungest in a sea 
Of misery despite the warnings wise 
Of a friend. Is there a greater fool than thee ? ' 1 

Kaikeyi's affection for Rama and her sense of right were too 
strong to yield to this sapping and mining operation of Manthara, 
elaborate as it was. So she replied to Manthara with indignation 
flashing in her eyes, thus : 

' The righteous kings of Surya's holy race, 
O evil one, do never break the word 
Even to save their life : and ev'n as 'mong 
The crested peacocks, 2 'tis the eldest son 

• i II ii 54-62. 

2 Manu is the first king of the Solar-race to which Rama belonged. 
It is a common belief among Indian poets that the first born chick of 
peahens, and it alone, is born with a crest on the head to mark it off 
from the rest of the young chickens. Kaikeyi says that Rama alone, as 
the first-born of Dasharatha is fit to succeed his father on the throne of 

[The above note of Aiyar follows the common interpretation by com- 
mentators who had only known books, and had not known Nature as 
knew the poet of the Thonifcai Puranam, who made the first reference 
to this trait of the peacocks which has come down to us. 

We now know that it was not merely to a common belief that 
Kamban was referring to. but it was a fact in Nature. We are indebted. 


That's marked as heir in Manu's royal house. 

What did thy tongue suggest, degraded -wretch ? 

Thou art no friend to me nor to my son, 

Nor, if we look to Dharma, to thyself ! 

To evil drawn by ill deeds done by thee 

I' th' past, thou speakest thoughtless one, whate'er 

Thy ill-regulated, low-born mind suggests ! 

If all that're born must die, and what is left 

On earth by men as gain or lost for ev'r 

Is only glory unsullied, then whate'er 

Is lost — whe'r life, or justice, or e'en right 

And holy vows and works — can we give up 

Traditions that descend from ancient Sire 

To son ? If others should suspect what passed 

Between us two — but be thou gone from 'fore 

My face ! Bless thou thy stars, O sinful wretch, 

That I refrain from cutting thy tongue. 

Avaunt, thou fool, and open not thy lips.' 1 

In spite of these harsh words, Manthara did not own defeat. 
On the contrary, she determined to carry by storm what would 
not yield to the more feeble operation of sapping and mining. 
So, ' like the poison that would not abate in virulance even after 
incantations are pronounced, but continues to attack the system,' 
she did not cease her attempt. She fell at Kaikeyi's feet, and 

for this information to the Poet-laureate of Madras, Shri V. Ramalingam 
Pillai, — popularly known as the Namakkal Kavingar (poet of Namakkal) — 
whose article on this simile appears in the October 1949 issue of the 
Kalai-Magal, Madras. He says : 

'It was in 1915 that I saw an article by an eminent American 
Ornithologist in the Scientific American. He had bred peacocks in 
captivity, and had marked with rings the chicks of one brood in the 
order of their hatching out of the eggs. Later, he continued to note 
their life day to day, and one of bis observations was that the peahen 
always goes about with all its family along with it, and that, when- 
ever an occasion arose for the peacocks to spread their tails and 
dance about, the order of precedence of fanning out the wings was 
invariably in the order of their emergence from the eggs.' 
The ancient Tamil poets, who had lived close to Nature, had noted 
this interesting phenomenon ages ago, and had effectively used it in 

We would be failing in our duty if we did not add that the Namakkal 
Kavingar, in his youth, used to pose these verses to Tamil scholars and 
crow over their discomfiture, but once he met his match in a very old 
man in a remote township who pricked our poet-laureate's bubble with 
a bland statement of this life-habit of the peacock. (P)] 
l n ii 64-67. 


saying, ' O my love, I won't refrain from telling thee what is 
for thine own good,' she pressed her assault on the heart of her 
mistress in the following words : 

' If th' eldest of thy race alone can sit 

Upon the throne as thou declarest, I ask 

O princess mine, how can the sea-hued Ram 

Be crowned while the King of kings is yet alive ? 

If he the younger did consent to wear 

The crown, canst say that tradition stops thy son 

Alone from claiming what is but his right ? 

And think of this : e'en those whose heart is filled. 

With righteous thoughts and ruth do alter when 

Unrivalled power and wealth do come to them. 

So, though thy foes may never injure thee 

And thine by open force, they will attempt, 

I'm sure, to break thy heart with mean affronts.. 

If her son rules as king, Kausalya's heart 

Would be inflated, her ambitious mind 

Would never e'en with owning the earth entire 

Be satisfied. What will be left for thee 

But what she gives to thee of her own grace ? 

When thou wilt be in gruesome poverty 

Immersed, if people come to thee for help, 

Wouldst thou beg of her the wherewithal to do 

Thy daily charities ? Or wouldst thou bend down 

Thine eyes in shame ? Or wouldst thou eat thy heart' 

In grief ? Or wouldst thou close thy door against 

Their face ? Thou art with madness seized, my love : 

For, tell me, if thy father or his kin 

Should come t' Ayodh to shelter seek with thee 

From cruel foes, desirest thou they should 

Be balked of all their hopes, and see instead 

With hungering eyes thy co-wife's opulence ? 

And think : the fear of thy lord alone 

Prevents king Janaka from falling on 

Thy father's realms ; if Ram ascends the throne 

Of Oudh, would the father of his wife, the king. 

Of Mithila withhold his greedy hands 

From Kekaya ? And ev'n if he forbears, 

Are there not foes on foes conspiring 'gainst 

Thy father ? If they fall on him, think'st thou: 


That Ram would give him help ? And helpless, how 

Can he against his numerous enemies hold ? 

Alas, thy kindred will be ruined, and thou 

Thyself wilt sink in a sea of misery ? 

What more ? Thou hast by thy neglect brought ruin 

Upon thy son, for, be thou sure, if Ram 

Is crowned, it will be he alone and his 

Beloved Lakshmana that will enjoy 

The sovereign power : think'st thou that others will have 

A share ? ' 1 

When Manthara finished, she had conquered. For Kaikeyi 
altered at once, and looking sweetly on her said, ' O great is thy 
love for me and my son ; now advise me, dear, as to how I can 
obtain the crown for Bharata.' 

Manthara now reminded hei- that Dasharatha had in grateful 
recognition of her services as charioteer in olden times, promised 
to grant her any two requests,- —whatever they might be — that 
she might at any time make to him, and that she should now 
demand the banishment of Rama and the coronation of Bharata 
as her two boons. Kaikeyi embraced her heartily for this timely 
advice and said, 

' Thou hast now given the sea-girt earth entire 
To my son Bharata : 'tis thou that art 
Henceforth the mother of the King to be, 
Not I ! Well hast thou said : My Bharat shall 
Be crowned today and Ram forthwith exiled 
To the forests : if my lord would not consent 
To this, I'll take my life at his very feet ! ' 2 

So she removed her ornaments and flowers, removed the 
tilaka 3 on her forehead, and laid herself on the ground awaiting 
the coming of Dasharatha. When he saw her in that condition, 
he swore in the name of Rama himself that he would do her 
pleasure if she would only mention it. She now reminded him 
of the old promise made before the gods and asked that he should 
grant her the two requests that she would presently ask of him. 
Ignorant of her guile, he said, ' Name them immediately so that 
I may grant them at once and take the weight off my mind.' 
But when she named her heartless requests, he fell like an 

1 II ii 67-76. * II ii 83, 84. 

3 Vermilion mark, a sign' of married state. 


elephant bitten by a snake. He sobbed and moaned ; his lips 
were parched up ; he swooned. But her heart remained as 
before — she did not relent. At length, he came to, and asked 
her ' Art thou turned mad or art thou tutored by designing 
persons ? Speak ! ' But she coolly answered, ' Neither am I 
mad, nor am I tutored by evil persons ; if thou grant my two 
requests I shall accept them ; if thou refuse, I shall take my life 
here at thy feet to thy eternal dishonour.' These words tortured 
him to the quick and even made him curse Dharma and Truth. 
After thinking of a. hundred things — even putting her to the 
sword — he, at length, fell at her feet and appealed to her better 
nature. He said, 

' Thy son will not accept the throne, and even if he 
should accept, my subjects would oppose the idea. Do not, 
therefore, Kaikeyi, run after disgrace, but earn eternal glory 
by withdrawing your requests. Neither gods nor man will 
approve of this. With whose good-will, then, canst thou 
rule the earth ? Rama is not greedy— he himself consented 
to the coronation only in response to my insistent request — 
and he will certainly apportion a part of my vast territory 
to thy son.' 1 

Seeing that she showed no signs of withdrawing her demand, 
he continued : 

' Even if thou demand my eyes, I would yield them to 

thee ; should thou ask for my life, even now it is thine. And, 

O woman, O fair one of Kekaya's generous race, if thou 

desire, take thou the crown, but insist not on thy other 

prayer. My word once given, I will never break it ; but 

even a demon would relent if anybody begs of it as- 1 beg 

of thee ! So torture me not by a refusal, O Kaikeyi ! ' 2 

But she did not yield. ' Thou thyself has promised ', she 

said, ' to grant me my requests, and I insist on them. If, now, 

thou hesitate, who else is there in the world to stand for truth ? ' 

Dasharatha pleaded more pitifully. He said : 

' Let thy son reign, and thou thyself may'st rule 

The earth with him. I grant thee this, and I 

Shall not go back upon my word. I pray 

But this, insist not that my son who is 

Mine eye, my life, the beloved of all the world, 

Should leave this land. My heart-strings break to see 

i II iii 26, 27. 2 n iii 28, 29. 


That Truth itself doth tear me by the roots. 
If he whose hands are like the lotus fair, 
Should go from me, O noble one, my life 
Will ebb away. I pray thee save my life ! ' 1 

But even these piteous words did not move her. Her heart 
was made of wood. Neither did she care for honour. She 
therefore heartlessly replied : 

' When thou dost seek to go back on thy word, 
O warrior-king, canst call it righteousness ? 
Is it not braving sin ? ' 2 

Dasharatha now lost all hopes of touching her heart, and 
rolled on the ground like a rock struck by the thunderbolt. He 
could not see a shore to the sea of grief in which he was getting 
drowned, and bewailed his fate and cursed Kaikeyi's hardness 
of heart. These words only made her more cruel, and she 
threatened him that if he would not grant her requests 
immediately she would die by her own hand at his feet. ' Once 
upon a time,' she concluded, ' a king cut his very body to pieces 
in order to honour his pledged word. Of what use are thy regrets 
now, after having promised once to grant my desire ? ' 

When she stabbed him thus, without the slightest compunc- 
tion, with her tongue, he gave up every hope, and crying out, 

' I grant thee even this request ; let Ram 
To the jungles be exiled, I shall to heaven 
Depart, and swim ye — Bharata and thou — 
Dishonour's perennial stream for ev'r and ev'r.' 3 

he fell into a swoon. So Kaikeyi had her heart's desire fulfilled 
and went to sleep the sleep of the just, unmindful of the suffering 
and the torture of her husband. 

When morning dawned, the princes and people, ignorant of 
what had happened the previous night, assembled in the 
coronation hall with expectant heart to witness the coronation 
of their beloved prince. Not seeing the King, Vashistha sent 
Sumantra to Kaikeyi's palace to ask the King to come to the 
hall. But Kaikeyi, on her part, ordered Sumantra to bring Rama 

1 II iii 32, 33. 2 II iii 34. 3 n iii 44. 

'BHftRATA 218 

to her. Sumahtra went with a joyous heart and brought Rama 
from his home to the palace of Kaikeyi. Says the poet : 

Kaikeyi thought that Dash'rath would not speak 

The cruel words himself, and so, when Ram 

Entered her audience hall, 'fore him who looked 

On her as mother she came alone, e'en as 

The spirit of Death ! His heart did leap for joy 

At sight of her as the calf when it sees 

The mothef-cow. He fell prostrate at her feet 

And stood in silence respectful But she 

Hardened her iron-heart, more hard than heart 

Of Death himself, and said, ' there is a thing 

I have to tell thee, son, and if thou ask 

Whether thy father sanctioned it, I do 

Assure thee, I've the sanction of the king 

To tell it thee.' To which Ram thus replied, 

' If father deigns to give me a command, 

And thou communicat'st the same to me, 

I look on myself as the happiest son 

On earth — is there a happier son than me ? 

Could all my holy endeavours give to me 

A better blessing than to hear and 

Obey such parents as you are. And thou 

Thyself art father as well as mother to me. 

I 'wait his dear commands : speak them to me.' 1 

It was to such a son and such a man that Kaikeyi spoke 
those cruel words which we have translated elsewhere. 2 

So Rama went away with Lakshmana and Sita to the forests 
while Dasharatha died with the name of Rama upon his lips, 
Vashistha sent messengers to Kekaya to bring Bharata, but he 
instructed them not to inform Bharata of the death of Dasharatha 
or of the exile of Shri Rama. The messengers reached Kekaya 
in due course, and when they gave Bharata the note which- said 
that he must immediately start for Ayodhya, 

He was m ecstasies, his hair did stand 

On end, for yearned his loving heart to see 

His brother and elasp his feet in loving worship. 3 

l II iSi 103-106 * See page 9. S n ix<i. 



• i He,, therefore, started immediately with his brother and 
retinue and hurried on to Ayodhya. As he entered the limits 
of his own country, however, he was shocked at the strange 
sight that greeted his eyes. No plough was seen prying on the 
fields. No garlands were seen on the necks of the men. The 
fields were not watered. Lakshmi herself seemed to have left 
the earth. There was no smile on the faces of the passers-by. No 
music was heard in the streets. The theatres and dancing-halls 
were deserted. Women's hair was unadorned with flowers. The 
whole country looked like a body from which the soul had fled 

Bhaxata's heart was pained beyond description. He thought 
some great evil must have happened at home, and sighed, and 
hurried on with redoubled pace. As he entered the city, the 
sights were still more heart-rending. He saw not the flags flying 
that used to look as if shading the whole city from the heat of 
the sun. He heard not the sound of the drum which used to 
sound every day as if inviting the needy to come and receive the 
bounty of the emperor. He saw not the Brahmanas leaving the 
palaces with presents of cows and horses and elephants and gold. 
No musicians played on their Vina. No chariots or palanquins 
plied on the streets. No horses or elephants carried men and 
women, and the streets looked deserted even as a river dried up. 

He entered the palace of his father but saw him nowhere. 
While he was still looking for him (and none would speak to 
him, as all suspected him to be in conspiracy with his mother) 
messengers came to him from his mother desiring his presence 
before her. He went to her and prostrated at her feet, when 
she, selfish woman that she was, asked whether her father and 
mother and sisters were well. He said that they were all well 
and in the same breath asked her where his father was. When 
she replied that he had died, he fell down like a sot tree struck 
by the thunderbolt. He slowly recovered and lamented for his 
lather's death in pathetic words. The poet indicates his attitude 
towards Rama in the following words that he puts in his mouth 
in the midst of his lamentation : 

' Didst grieve that Rama's hand was bare, and didst 

Thou leave this earth desiring thy sceptre, 

Which had never left thy hands, should now adorn 

The hand of the blessed one. But, sooth, if thou 

Hadst loved the son that thy austerities 

Did bless thee with, wouldst thou have left him thus ? 

BHARA1A. - 291 

Nor alas, art thou given to see with thine eyes 
The Coronation of thy Ram ! ' 1 

Shatrughna consoled Bharata, and when he had recovered 
from the first paroxysm of grief, he said, 

' As Ram alone is father, mother, and lord 
To me, unless I bow my head at his feet 
My heart cannot recover from this shock.' 2 

It is Valmiki that has built up this situation with great 
artistic skill and Kamban adopts his arrangements of this scene 
without much alteration. But the student of Valmiki will see 
that, as an artist of equally rich imagination, Kamban does not 
translate Valmiki even here but carries on the conversation in 
his own way, while with his greater dramatic skill he avoids the 
slowness of Valmiki and makes the scene unroll itself with greater 
rapidity. We shall see how Kamban handles the situation. 

When Kaikeyi heard the words of Bharata that we have 
given above, she coolly replied and without any comment, that 
Rama had gone away to the wilderness with his brother and 
Sita. At these words Bharata felt as if he had swallowed living 
fire, and asked between many a sob and sigh : 

' Can fate bring forth a greater ill ? And what more 
ill news are there for me to hear ? Is it as punishment for 
any ill deed done by him that Rama has been sent to the 
forests ? Or is it the wrath of the gods or Fate that has 
sent him in exile ? If Rama had done an ill deed, men 
would have looked on it as they would have on any deed 
done by their mother herself — who then could have punished 
him ? Oh, tell me, is it after father's death that he left 
or before ? ' 3 

After some more filigree work, Kamban makes Kaikeyi at 
last come out with the truth. She said : 

' I made thy father grant me two of my wishes, by one 
of which I sent away Rama to the wilds, and by the other 
I got the throne for thee. Thy father could not bear this 
and therefore it is he died.' 

As soon as he had heard these words, his hands that were 
t joined in reverence flew to close his ears against any further 

1 II ix 55, 56. 2 H ix 58. .3 II ix 60-62. 


blasphemy. His brows met together in a terrific ' frown.' His; 
eyes became blood-red and his cheeks trembled ; his body was. 
like a mass of fire ; he bit his lips and struck the ground to the 
terror of the very thunderbolt. As he strode the hall — unable 
to stand still — the earth with Meru Hill tottered even like a boat 
tossed by storms in the open sea. The Devas and the Asuras. 
trembled at his passion, and how many died not with sheer 
fright ! The mammoths holding up the earth quaked with fear- 
and the God of Death shut his eyes. Continues the poet : 

The lion-like Bharata boiling with wrath 

Hesitated not to strike because she was 

His mother : he feared the anger of Ram, and so . 

It is, he left Kaikey unharmed. But he 

His wrath did not conceal and thus burst forth : 

' I hear thee say that through thy plot my father 

Is dead and my brother gone to the wilderness : 

And if I have not plucked thy sinful tongue 

By the roots till now, doth it not mean that I 

Have in my greed begun to rule the earth ? 

Thou livest yet ; and still my spell-bound hand 

Leapeth not forth to finish thee '. Did not 

I fear that Ram my master would resent 

The deed, shall even the name of mother stay 

My arm from slaying thee ? ' 1 

Bharata's filial affection, tenderness, sweetness, joy in life,. 
all have now gone to the winds. After this revelation of 
Kaikeyi he cannot look at the world except in terms of her 
double guilt. And he cannot forget that he is the son of Kaikeyi 
and that it is for his sake that she executed her cruel plot. He 
begins to be obsessed with the idea that none would believe that 
he had no hand in his mother's conspiracy, and the idea oppresses 
his heart every minute with an increasing intensity. So self- 
reproach and self-condemnation become his normal state of mind. 
And Kamban paints this state of mind in all its aspects with the 
same victorious ease with which he paints other feelings. The 
following are extracts from the continuation of Bharata's address 
to Kaikeyi : 

' We have a king who gives up his life to keep his word ; 
we have a hero who gives up the crown in obedience "to 

I Q lx 70, 71, 74. 


cruel words ; and, if there is a Bharata to wear the crown 
in his place, will not the cycle of the righteous be complete ? 

' Can there be a greater renown to me than to make 
posterity point out to me as having destroyed the family 
tradition, helped by the plot of his mother and brought 
dishonour upon the race ? 

' Thy heart is not heavy though thou hast killed thy 
lord ! Ah, devil in human shape, how thy life persists ! 
Thou will not even now end thyself ! Thou gavest me the 
milk of thy breasts when I was a child, and now thou hast 
brought on me eternal disgrace. What more are the gifts 
that thou art going to bestow on me, mother ? 

' With thy tongue hast thou slain a king who would 
never utter an untruth, and acquired dishonour that will 
never end, and thou desirest to enjoy sovereignty and power 
for ever. Fie on thee that even when thou sawest the very 
■cows and calves follow him to the forest, thou didst not find 
it in thy heart to put an end to thy life ! 

' Ah ! Ram believes that I am privy to my mother's 
conspiracy, for, otherwise, knowing that father would die for 
not seeing him, would he not have returned at least to save 
his life ? Has he not left for the forest wilds verily in the 
belief that I would not hesitate to sit on the throne ? 

' And yet I live ! Will not the world point out to me 
as the wretch who consents to eat sweet white rice in plates 
while my elder brother is eating leaves in cups, themselves 
made of those very leaves ? 

' The good king died the very instant he heard the news 
that Ram had left for the forest, while I kill not the woman 
who is cruel as very poison, nor will I die. Am I not indeed, 
rich in dishonour ? And yet I weep as if I have a loving 
heart!' 1 

And then, after telling his mother that there was nothing 
for her now but to take her life and wipe out the dishonour that 
she had brought on herself, Bharata went to Kausalya, and 
.clasping her feet wept for long. 

' Where is my father, he cried, and where my brother ? 
Came I to Ayodhya only to see this misery ? Show me a.balm 

1 II ix 73, 74, 76, 77, 79, 81, 82. 


to my bleeding heart, O mother ! The raoe whose glory was 
brighter than the sun has now become blackened by the 
birth of Bharata.' 1 

When Kausalya saw his rending grief, her natural anger 
disappeared and she felt that he was perfectly innocent and that 
he would not assume the crown. And she said : 

' Ah ! child, perhaps thou knewest not the plot 
That Kekay's princess planned.' 2 

Here we should remark that, by stopping short with these 
words, Kamban makes Kausalya more dignified in character than 
Valmiki does with the taunting speech he puts into her mouth. 
At the same time, by making Bharata eat his own heart and 
protest his innocence by many a terrible oath the moment he heard 
even these words, Kamban makes his Bharata also seem more 
sensitive than the same hero in Valmiki. 

Tortured by the words, though there was no more than the- 
merest shadow of suspicion in them, Bharata took a terrible 
oath which is given in twenty stanzas, but from which we shall 
give only a few sentences. He said : 

' If I had known the evil planned by that evil one, may I 
fall into the hell reserved for men that show not mercy, for 
those who endeavour to destroy charities, for those who 
corrupt the wife of another man, and for those who destroy 
life in wanton cruelty ! 

May I suffer the torments reserved for those who do harm 
to the holy ones who have renounced everything and do tapas, 
for those who flee from before their enemies in war, and for 
those who rob the poor ! 

May I be roasted in hell even as he who fills his maw 
while his mother suffers from hunger in dire indigence, as the 
follower who flees from his master when he is attacked by 
foes, as he who betrays to his foes the man who has taken 
refuge with him .' 

May I suffer the punishments inflicted in hell on the false 
witness, on him who is afraid of war, on him who eats away 
trust property, on him who draws all the milk without leaving 
enough for the calf, on the man who is ungrateful to his 
benefactor, on the man who Would not defend women who are- 

1 II ix 90, 93. * II ix 96. < 


assaulted in Ms presence, and on him who act* When his 
neighbour is hungry ! 

May I writhe in hell as he who runs away from the 
battle-field fearing for his life, and as the king who robs the 
charitable foundations of his realms ! 

If I had desired the crown that Rama was to have worn, 
may I throw away my skill with the bow and the sword, 
and may I lose my valour, and for the sake of preserving 
the worthless body, may I live, a beggar in the place given 
to me by my enemies ! 

May I place my sword at the feet of my enemies and 
surrender my honour to them to be mocked at by women ! 
May I lose the independence of my country and live a chained 
prisoner in the sight of my enemies ! ' 1 

When Bharata was taking the oath, 

Kausalya felt as if she saw her Ram 

Himself returned from his exile cruel. Her heart 

Did fill with joy and new-returned love. 2 

She embraced him heartily and then sobbed with grief for the 
suspicions that she herself had entertained against him, though 
only for a very short time. And then she said to him — unable to 
contain her admiration of his nobility — 

'O prince of princes, O my Bharata ! 

Of all the kings that have adorned thy House 

From times beyond our memory, whom can 

I name along with thee for purity 

Of heart ? ' 3 

And the more she thought of his crystal purity and of the 
unjust suspicion that had come on him, the more deeply she 
grieved and the more freely flowed her tears. While both were 
mingling their tears thus, the family priest Vashistha came and 
after condolences asked him to look to the performance of the 
obsequies of his father. So the enbalmed body of Dasharatha was 
taken to the burning ground and placed on the funeral pyre. But 
when after the mantras were pronounced, Bharata rose to light 
the fire, Vashistha interposed and said : • 

1 n ix 98-117. P n lx 118. 3 II he W u i 


(' ii :.' Alas, my Bharata, thou raay'st not light 
The funeral fire nor join in the rites : . 
For Dasharath has repudiated thee 
Also in the anguish of his heart, before 
His death.* * 

These words went like a cruel poisoned dart into the already 
tortured heart of Bharata, and he fell down like a cobra struck by 
the thunderbolt and thus lamented his fate : 

' Of all the princes of my race who can 
Compare with me ? I am unfit to perform 
My father's funeral rites ; is it to seat 
Myself upon the vacant throne alone 
That I am born ? . . . . Alas, I am become 

The solitary sapless, fleshless nut 

Amidst the fruitful bunch luxurious 

Growing on the palm tree called the Solar-race. 

Ah, how my mother has emblazed my name 

I' the book of fame ! ' 2 

r , 

v r The funeral rites were performed by Shatrughna, Bharata 
only looking on with many a sigh and with a tortured heart. 
After everything was over Vashistha called the General Council 
of Princes and the People, and these called on Bharata to assume 
the crown. But, 

When he heard the Rishi's words, he trembled 
E'en more than men to whom the poison cup 
Is offered ; tears flowed down his cheeks ; his tongue 
Was parched ; his eyes began to roll ; his heart 
Melted ev'n a? a woman's heart. And then 
Checking the feelings of his heart he spoke 
Thus to the assembled elders : ' when 'tis not 
Against the Ancient Dharm for righteous men 
T' invite me to assume the crown, when lives 
My elder brother who peerless stands in all 
The Worlds, who can my mother charge with guilt? 
Has the Age of the Kali dawned, Q men of rede, 

1 H ix 132. 2 n ix 138. 138. 

B H A R A T A 297 

That ye approve my mother's cruel plot ? 
From Brahma downwards, on the ancient earth 
Can ye point out to me a prince who wore 
The crown when th' elder brother was yet alive ? 
Ev'n if it should be Dharm, I cannot bear 
The burden of this crown ! Bring him therefore 
From exile artd crown him as king of Oudh. 
If he refuse I'll go and live with him 
The hermit's life austere of holy calm. 
If ye invite me 'gain to wear the crown 
I am resolved to take my life ; ye have 
My mind.' 1 

These words of Bharata created a thrill of admiration in the 
hearts of the councillors. They said : 

' Even Ram agreed to wear the crown while lived 

The emperor, but thou, O grand-souled hero, 

Deny'st thyself this vast entrancing earth 

And sovereign power : where is thy peer among 

The princes of the world ? Need'sl thou a throne 

T' emblaze thy name upon the hearts of men ? 

Or need'st ostentatious charities 

Or sacrifices grand to earn a name 

'Mong men ? E'en when the fourteen worlds "dissolve 

In air, thy fame can never die ! ' 2 

So ended the council, and at the desire of Bharata all Ayodhya 
started to the forest to meet Rama and persuade him to come back 
and take the crown. The army marched in 'ront as guard and 
the whole population walked or rode behind. After marching a 
few days, Bharata and the army reached the banks of the Ganga. 
Guha, who was the king of the forest folk thereabouts, saw the 
army from a distance and imagined that Bharata was come to 
rapture and kill Rama, his friend. So, with his chest and arm 
•swelling with joy at the expectation of battle, he called out his 
men and told them his thoughts in these words : 

' Arrived in force here is the prince who prevented the 
coronation of the friend of my heart, the dark-coloured Rama, 
and usurped the throne for himself. But thinks he that my 

i II x 13-1& 2 II x 19, 20. • • 


arrows cannot fly like fire- vomiting rocks ? And if he 
escapes alive from before me, would not the world regard me 
as a worthless cur ? 

' Shall they cross today the deep waters of the Ganga, 
and are we bowmen afraid of the army because it is 
strengthened by elephant divisions ? And shall we treat it 
as an empty breath — the declaration of lasting friendship made 
by Rama with us ? And will not the world mock at me saying 
that the wretched hunter did not at least give his life for the 
sake of his friend ? 

' He recks not that Rama is his elder brother. Nor does 
he fear that there is a younger by his side, fierce and strong 
as a tiger. If he minds them not, how is it he despises even 
me ? Is it not after passing me that he can attack Rama ? 
Or is it that the arrows of hunters cannot pierce the hearts 
of Kshatriyas ? 

'Will kings never have any sense of sin or dishonour 
or disgrace ? Will they be callous to the feelings of love and 
hate ? Be that as it may, is it not after slaying me that 
they can fall upon the friend of my heart ? 

'Is it not after crossing the Ganga that they can display 
the pride of their elephant and horse divisions ? And ye 
fierce hunters, have ye not the power to destroy the beasts ? 
And at the worst, is it not better to die before our Lord 
Shri Ram ? 

' Will ye not destroy the bannered host in front, and have 
it said that ye hunters restored sovereign power to the justest 
of princes ? My Lord gave away to them a kingdom, and 
behold these cruel brothers grudge even the jungle land to 
him ? ' i 

Frowning at Bharata in these and similar words, Guha stood 
on the southern bank of the river making his dispositions for 
the fight. Bharata, Shatrughna and the charioteer Sumantra 
walked to the northern bank of the river, and as he recognised 
Guha, Sumantra pointed him out to Bharata as the dear friend of 

When Bharata heard that he was Rama's friend,. 
His holy heart was filled with joy, and saying,. 
'If he is a friend beloved of Ram, I will 

' II xl 14-17, 19, 22. 


Not watt far him t' advance but myself go 
And Meet him over there,' With quicker steps 
He walked towards the water's edge. 1 

Guha could not distinguish the face and attire of Bharata. 

He saw his form with tree-bark clothed and soiled 
With neglected dust : he saw his smile-less face 
E'en as the moon with all her glory shed : 
He saw his anguished look that made e'en stones 
With pity melt : and he astounded stood ! 
The banded bow dropped from his hand and sobbing 
He thus expressed his awe-filled mind : 'Yon Prince 
Resembles full my master Ram, while he 
That's by him looks like Lakshman fair ; besides, 
He wears the hermits' weeds ; and there appears 
No end to the anguish of his heart : he joins 
His hands in worship and looks reverent towards 
The south. Can ev'r a brother of Rama swerve 
From righteous ways ? ' 2 

Guha told his chiefs that Bharata did not appear to have come ■ 
with hostile intent and that he Would cross over and ascertain 
the truth for himself. At the same time, however, asking them 
to guard the bank carefully, he went over in a boat to the other 
bank. On landing, he fell at the feet of Bharata who did him a 
similar honour and embraced him even more tenderly than if he 
had been his father. After all these salutations were over, Guha 
asked him what was the purport of his leaving Ayodhya and 
coming southward. 3 Bharata replied : 

' My father who had ruled the worlds without 
A single flaw has set at nought for once 

i II xi 27. 2 II xi 29, 30. 

3 The student of Valmiki will see how much more delicate is Kamban's 
Guha, when compared to Valmiki's Guha, who tells Bharata to his face, 
' But this thy host so wide disposed 
Wakes in my heart one doubt and dread 
Lest threatening Rama good and great, 
III thoughts thy journey stimulate.' 
It would be worthwhile to compare this whole episode of Guha as 
treated by Kamban at every step with Valmiki's treatment of the same. 
Valmiki has worked wonders in this episode but even the most partial' 
admirer of Valmiki will have to admit that the touches that Kamban 
has added to it make it more entrancing, more grand. Unfortunately - 
space forbids us to pursue the comparison here any further. 


The traditions of our ancient lines I come 
To call our Kama home and set them right.' A 

Bharata's words drew sobs from the manly heart of Guha. 
Again he fell prostrate on the ground and clasping the lotus-like 
feet of Bharata, he addressed him these never-to-be-forgotten 
• words : 

' Thou hast renounced as sinful, Sire, the throne 
Thy mother did demand and thy father gave, 
Although thyself art free from blame. And thou 
Art come to seek thy brother with anguished heart. 
When I behold this self-conquest, I ask 
Can even a thousand Ramas equal thee ? 
How can a hunter ignorant like me 
Thy praises fitly sing ? E'en as the sun 
Outshining does devour all other lights, 
Thou hast transcended and eclipsed the fame 
Of all the sovereigns of thy ancient line ! ' 2 

Bharata accepted the hospitality lovingly offered by Guha, 
and then asked him to show the place where Rama had slept while 
he remained with him. While Guha pointed to him the bed of 
grass on the stony floor as the bed whereupon Rama passed his 
night, Bharata could not bear the sight and fell down on the 
ground shaking all over with intensity of his grief, and soaking 
Jthe very earth with his tears. And then he gave vent to his 
excruciating feelings, apostrophising Rama thus : 

' Ev'n when I know that thou didst suffer, brother, 

Exile on my account and even when 

I hear it said thou atest berries wild 

And roots as if they were ambrosia, 

And sleptest on this bed, I yield not up 

My breath ! O brother shall not I e'en accept 

The crown ? ' 3 

And again impelled by brotherly affection, Bharata asked 
Guha to show where Lakshmana passed the night, to which the 
loving forester replied : 

1 n xi 33. 2 ii X i 35, 36 8 II xi 40. 


' When slept the dark-hued handsome Ram and she 
Upon this bed, thy Lakshman with his bow 
■In hand dnd with many a sigh and tear did stand 
On guard outside the whole night through, without 
A wink of sleep.' * 

Bharata's self -torturing heart found in this news fresh matter 
for self-reproach and self-condemnation. He exclaimed : 

Of all the brothers born with Ram, I've been 
For him the curse of endless miseries, 
While Lakshmana stands to remedy them as they 
Approach : can mankind sound the depths of love ? 
Ah, grand's the service I have done to Ram ! ' 2 

Bha'rata now requested Guha to take the 'vast host across the 
Ganga. After all others had passed over, Bharata and the dowager 
empresses of Ayodhya got into a boat along with Guha. As they 
were crossing the river, Guha asked to be introduced to the queens. 
The stanzas in which Guha asks and Bharata replies are full of 
the pathos of passionate self-reproach ; and we shall attempt to. 
translate them for the reader. 

As Guha did salute Kausalya great 

And asked of Bharata, 'Wilt tell me, prince, 

Who is this holy dame ? ' Good Bharata 

Replied, ' O brother, know her as the spouse 

Of him whose court was thronged with vassal kings, 

And as the noble queen who lost through my 

Unfortunate birth, the happiness that was 

To have been hers as mother of the Lord 

Who in the ages gone begot the god 

From whom doth spring this triple universe ! ' 

Guha now turned to Sumitra and asked 

The prince to tell him who she was. ' She is,' 

The holy one replied, ' the second wife 

Of him who died and left a deathless name 

For truth, and mother of him who never parts 

From Ram and proves to all the world that Ram 

Has got a brother yet.' And last towards her 

The hunter looked, who though her lord had died 

1 13 XI 42. S n xi 43. 


And though her j»n wjth anguish wore away 

His heart, and Rama wandered in the wildq, 

Cared not for them but went on measuring away 

With her cruel greed-rilled heart, the worlds that Vishnu 

Did measure with his feet. And then he asked 

' Who may this lady be ? ' The prince replied 

' She is the mother of all these ills and nurse 

Of lasting shame ; she wears my heart away 

With her callousness ; for 'midst this endless host 

That looks a body reft of life, is not 

Her face the only one that is not touched 

With sorrow's hue ? Her heartlessness doth cleave 

My heart in twain. If canst not know her straightway 

By her look, then know it is her sinful womb 

That held me many a weary month before 

My birth.' 1 

At length the whole party landed and pursued their way 
towards where Rama was staying in the forest. It is the plan of 
the poet to show off the pure gold of Bharata's character by melting 
it again and again in the fire of unjust suspicion and calumny. So 
here also Kamban exposes Bharata to the unjust charges of 
Lakshmana. The reader will not have forgotten the cruel words 
that Lakshmana hurled against Bharata when he saw him- 
advancing at the head of the immense multitude towards where 
they were. 2 But Ram knew the real nature of Bharata and calmed 
Lakshmana with the words 3 which are a partial compensation for 
the various attacks aimed at Bharata by unthinking people. 

As they were thus discussing, Bharata himself approached, 
his hands joined in the attitude of worship, his body drooping 
down, his eyes flowing with tears, his whole person a very picture 
of anguish of heart. 

Rama pointed him out to Lakshmana and said with a delicate 
irony : 

' O my Child of the twanging bow, behold the panoply 

of war in which the angry Bharata advances to attack us.' 

But Lakshmana did not require Rama's words in order to 
Tealise the injustice of his suspicions. For, as Bharata approached, 

His face grew pale ; his tongue that even now 
' Reviled his brother stuck to his palate dumb ; 

* II xi 65, 68-70. % See page 76. 3 See page ff. 


His wrath was fled ; his eyes did inundate 

The ground with tears ; his bow dropped from his hand : 

And he astonished stood. * 

And Bharata came as the messenger sent by the Earth for her 
Lord Shri Rama, whose separation she could not bear any more, 
and saying, 

' Thou hast forgotten Dharma and forsaken Truth 
Thou hast broken all our traditions.' 2 

he fell at the feet of Rama as if he met his own father come back 
to life. 

Rama embraced him with a fervent love and eyed again and 
again with grief the hermit's weeds in which Bharata appeared, 
and thought on a hundred things as possible reasons for the same. 
At length he asked him : 

" Thou art sunk in grief, my child ; is our hero father 

well ? ' Bharata broke to him the unhappy news of his 

father's death, 
and Rama lamented long and deeply for him along with Bharata 
and Vashistha and his mothers. At length, counselled by 
"Vashistha, Rama offered the funeral oblations to his father, and 
entertained all that had come with Bharata. 

The next day Rama assembled the chiefs and Rishis that had 

come from Ayodhya and at the assembly spoke to Bharata thus : 

' Our great father is dead and by his commands the empire 

belongs to thee. Why then dost not thou wear the crown, 

but appear in these hermit's weeds ? ' s 

Bharata at once rose up with a visible shudder in his limbs, 
.and joining his hands in reverence looked full in the face of Rama 
.and replied as follows : 

' Who is there for righteousness, O brother mine, 
But thou thyself ? Wilt break the traditions old 
Of our house ? For whom is penance fit but me 
Who am the son of her, who with her boons 
Rebellious killed the king, and did decree 
An exile's life to thee ? Me miserable ! 
Born from the sinful womb of her who broke 

J n xii 51. a II xii 53. 3 n xii 96. 


The hearts of all, I think not yet to seek 

My death, nor would I live the anchorite's life : 

How am I going now to wash my sins ? . . . k . 

When thou dost leave the ancient throne that's thine 

Of right and lead the life of eremites, 

Shall I forget myself and swerve from right 

And rule the earth as one who Dharm destroys ? 

Our father dead for very excess of love, 

And thou come over to the desert wilds, 

Defenceless lies the state : am I a foe 

To watch my chance and steel the unguarded crown T 

So right, my brother, the wrong by father done 

And th' evil brought by her the mother 

Of wickedness, and do return to Oudh 

And wear th' imperial crown.' 1 

Rama, however, would not admit Bharata's arguments. He- 
said that his father and mother had ordered him to leave the 
country, and that he would not make his father a liar in this world 
by returning to Ayodhya. ' The duty of the son is to increase the 
glory of his parents and not to make their names a by-word of 
disgrace. Thy father,' Rama concluded, ' left thee the kingdom 
by his express command, and by right of birth too it belongs to 
thee. Take thou therefore the reins of power in thy hands and 
rule the earth.' ' If the kingdom,' replied Bharata, ' in which 
thou wert born the eldest son to the king — thou who hast no peer 
in all the worlds — does really belong to me, then, my brother, I 
give it away to thee. When the whole kingdom is hungering for 
thy return, wilt thou pass thy time in selfish tapas ? Come thou 
therefore, O brother, and wipe off its sorrow by assuming the 
crown ! ' 

Rama would not change his fixed mind. He said, 
' If in thy love thou dost bestow thy crown 
On me, can it belong to me ? The years 
That I agreed to live in the wilderness 
Obedient to my father's will, are they 
Over today ? Is there a higher virtue 
Brother, than truth ? Is there a blacker sin 
Than swerving from the same ? Let me therefore 
Reside, O brother, for the period undertook, 

* II rtit d7-9ff, 101, 103. 


An exile in the forest lands ; and all 

These years rule thou Ayodhya by my command ! 

When father bid me wear the crown, my child, 

I feared to disobey arid did submit 

My will to his. I bid thee now to rule 

The land, and as I did to father yield, 

So do thou yield to me and leave thy sorrow.' l 

Now Vashistha intervened and as preceptor called upon Rama 
with greater authority, to return to the land and rule Ayodhya. 
' But how can I go back,' asked Rama, ' upon the word once given ? 
Is it right for thee to call upon me to assume the crown, after I 
had promised to my father and mother to do their bidding ? ' 

Vashistha could not oppose him with reason and so became 
silent. And Bharata, finding it impossible to persuade Rama to 
leave the forest, said in despair : 

' If thou wilt not go back on thy resolve, 
Let those assume the crown who want to rule : 
I'll follow thee and live the anchorite's life ! ' 2 

The invisible gods, who had been closely following the debate, 
now thought that if Bharata's determination should induce Rama 
to return to Ayodhya, Ravana and the Rakshasas would remain 
unpunished, and so they caused these words to be heard in the 
assembly : 

' It is thy duty Bharata, to rule the empire during all the 

fourteen years that Rama has undertaken to pass in exile 

in accordance with the will of his father.' 3 

When these incorporeal words were heard, Rama said to 
Bharata : 

' Behold the Devas have spoken and thou ought not to 

disobey their words. So at my request and with my authority 

rule thou the empire, brother.' 4 

Bharata had to yield. But he insisted on one stern condition. 
' If thou wilt not come back,' he said, ' exactly at the end of 
fourteen years and accept the sceptre, I shall light a big fire and 
burn myself in it.' Rama saw the firmness of his heart, and 
melting away at his unselfish devotion to himself agreed to his 

1 II xii 114-117. 2 II xii 129. 

3 n xii 131. * II xii 132. 



Bharata with many a sob requested Rama to give him his 
Padufcas-s-the wooden shoes that he wore — as he would rule the 
land in the name of these sacred shoes only as the symbol of 
Rama's personal authority ; and Rama gave them — those shoes 
that give temporal as well as spiritual salvation to those that 
worship them in faith and love. And placing them upon his head 
and shedding tears profusely at the thought of separation from 
Rama, Bharata at length took his leave with all his host and 
returned home. But he would not enter Ayodhya, for, was not 
Rama an exile therefrom ? He therefore stopped at Nandigram, 
placed the Padukas on the throne, and conducted the affairs of 
the state as their vice-regent, himself living the life of an 
anchorite ! 

And how he did pass the fourteen years of Rama's exile ! 

Not a day passed without his doing worship to the Padukas 
of his brother. He lived with his senses absolutely restrained, 
a very picture of tenderness and love. Tears would gush forth 
from his eyes at the very thought of his brother. Although he 
lived in the midst of plenty, he would eat nothing but roots 
and wild berries, the produce of the wild country. He would be 
constantly looking towards the south, the direction from which 
Rama should return, repeating to himself with tears and sobs, ' he 
would not belie his word, he will come, he will come.' 

At length the day dawned on which Rama was due to arrive 
in Ayodhya and still there were no signs of his arriving. The 
anguish of Bharata's heart and his tears increased a hundredfold 
and he said to himself : 

' He wouldn't forget the day agreed with me ? 
Nor be unmindful of his mother's love 
Or anguish mine, and overstay his time. 
I fear some evil has befallen him ! ' 1 

Soon he recovered his poise, saying : 

' But who can stand before my hero brother ? 
Nor gods, nor man, nor beings of the world 
Beyond, nor e'en the Three Supreme could win 
If him they faced in war ! ' 2 

3 VI xxxvii 214. is VI xxxvii 215. 


But other doubts soon upset him and he resolved to die in 
the fire as he had declared to his brother at the time of parting 
from him in the iorest. He said : 


' But may it be 

He thinks I might desire the crown, and stays 

Away in the wilderness so that I might 

Einjoy the throne in peace ? But now the time 

Is past that I should think and hesitate : 

I can my torture bear no more, I'll die 

And end my anguish with my life ! ' J 

He, therefore, had a big rolling fire lighted on the fields and 
walked towards it But, in the meantime, the whole city got to 
know of the matter, and everybody rushed to the field of fire, 
preceded by Kausalya, the mother of Rama, who hurried towards 
him weeping and sobbing. When he saw her, Bharata was taken 
aback and he saluted her falling at her feet. She took him up 
and embraced him and chid him and nobly lauded him in th'» 
fnllowing words : 

' Tis destiny, my son, that diove thy brother 

And father to their several fates ; but what 

Is it that thou'rt about, O child ? It is 

A thoughtless deed ; for if thou end thy life, 

Our chiefs and people and thy mothers all 

Will feed the fire and end themselves. Will Dharm 

Itself remain alive ? The very world 

Will from its orbit swerve and come to an end ! 

Thou knowest not thy greatness, Bharata ! 

We have not seen a higher righteousness 

With these our eyes than thy own holy life. 

Can e'er thy glory fade e'en when the worlds 

Dissolve ? Ten million million Ramas ev'n 

Can never approach the love immaculate 

That burns within thy soul ! If thou shouldst die 

That art but Dharma's other self, can earth 

And heaven and all that breathes remain alive ? 

If this day tarries Ram, tomorrow he 

Is sure to come. Think not he'd break the word 

He himself gave to thee. Tomorrow if 

», VI jc*xvii 216. 1 


' We see him not, be sure he has ceased to live ! 
But grieving for the death of one, my child, 
Wilt thou destroy great Surya's race itself 
Up to its very roots ? And thou art Dharm 
Itself in flesh and blood ! ' * 

So spoke the grand-souled Kausalya forgetting even her grief 
for the delay of Rama in the sight of the immaculate Bharata. 
She could contemplate the death of Rama without swooning — so 
much had the sacrifice of Bharata endeared him to her heart. 
How then could she look on and allow him to fall into the fire- 
in a mistaken sense of sin ? 

But Bharata would not listen to her. He said, 

' Say not, O mother, that thy son has ceased 

T' obey thy word. I will no more preserve 

My life and risk th' unduteous violation 

Of my father's words and all traditions old 

Of our race. I'll stand by the oath I made, and keep 

My word. I'll also give my life for truth. 

And go to heaven. As Rama is the son 

And heir, the duty's his alone to save 

The state. "Tis wrong for others to wear the crown. 

Besides, obedience to the father's words 

And mother's, and the trampling down of tenderness 

And love do appertain to Ram alone. 

They are impossible for me, my mother ! 

And I shall die and prove my innocence.' 2 

So saying, he walked round the fire in worship as a preliminary 
to falling into it. All the people sobbed aloud. But just at that 
moment Hanuman who had been sent to Bharata by the considerate 
Rama appeared shouting, 

' My Lord is come, the noble hero's come ! 

Can he survive if thou shouldst take thy life ? ' 3 

and with his mighty paws extinguished the fire. 

And then saying that Rama was being entertained by 
Bharadwaja, and that that was the reason of the delay of Rama 

1 VI xxxvii 229-234. 3 VI xxxvii 236-238. 3 VI xxxvii ^tO) 

B H A R A T A 809 

in coming over to where he was, Hanuman showed to Bharata the 
Signet ring of Rama which he brought with him as evidence of 
the genuineness of his message. Bharata's joy at its sight was 
not one whit less than that of Sita when she saw it in Lanka. 
He kissed it, embraced it, and pressed it into his eyes. His 
emaciated body grew to itself again at the touch of the beloved 
jewel. He laughed and wept, saluted and embraced Hanuman 
again and again, fell at his feet, and leaped with excess of joy. 

' Dance, dance away with joy,' he said to those 
Around ; ' run, fly to where our Rama is ! 
Let's sing a song of joy ! O sinners, why 
Fall ye not at the feet of Hanuman ? ' ' 

And then, 

The tongues that had been crying for grief, began 
To shout for joy ; all eyes began to dry, 
And heads that ploughed the ground were lifted up, 
And all did clasp in worship Hanuman's feet. 2 

Bharata did all honours to Hanuman, gave orders to make all 
arrangements for a fitting reception to the hero of heroes, and 
when everything was complete, started with an immense multitude 
for the ashram of Bharadwaja. On the way Hanuman told him all 
that had happened after Rama went away South, in the midst of 
which account he gave him the welcome news that Dasharatha had 
come down on earth at the time of Sita's ordeal and withdrawn 
the curse against himself and his mother. 

Bharata grieved that it was not given to him to help Rama 
like Lakshmana in the destruction of Ravana. But all the grief 
and sorrow melted away the moment he saw Rama coming in the 
aerial chariot towards Ayodhya. He then felt as if he saw his 
father himself returned to life. He fell at Rama's feet and Rama 
took him up, and, unable to utter a word in the intensity of his 
grief and joy, embraced him till their very souls touched. Tears 
flowed unceasingly from Rama's eyes at the sight of the twisted 
knot of hair on the head of Bharata which had never been untied 
all these fourteen years. These tears and the love of Rama's 
heart, which was like that of the cow for its calf, were enough 
compensation to the heart of Bharata for the untold mental 

i VI xxxvii 251. " VI xxxvii 247 


anguish that he had been suffering from the 'moment that he had 
heard of Rama's exile. And Lakshriiana, who had misunderstood 
him in the early days of the exile, 'clasped his feet in loving 
worship.. The tortured heart of Bharata had at length found its 
balsam, and fluttering with joy he took his brother and the Vanara 
host to Ayodhya and crowned Rama to the delight of himself 
and that of the whole world. And never did he feel so much joy 
as. when at the time of the coronation he held the white umbrella, 
the symbol of victory and unstinting liberality, over the head of 
his brother. 



V. V. s. aiyar'' 

All Rights Reserved 

Publishers' Note 

V. V. S. Aiyar had intended to crown his work with the 
•character-study of Sita and had fittingly reserved it to the last. 
Cruel fate, however, stretched its talons and tragically snatched 
him away from this world before he could sing Sita's virtues. 
Though very reluctant to make any additions to Aiyar's work, we 
felt a certain infelicity in letting the work appear without 
Sita, and hence, a character-sketch of Sita has been added to this 

It is written by a- member of the Delhi Tamil Sangam. Were 
we to apologise for including it in this book, we shall never cease 
doing so at every line of the sketch — we are so fully conscious, as 
is the author, of its unworthiness. But we owe to the readers, 
especially the foreign readers, a duty to give them a complete 
work. We sincerely hope that lovers of Aiyar will accept this 
chapter in the spirit in which it is offered. To be in keeping with 
the foregoing chapters, Tamil verses have been translated into 
blank verse. " Coleridge hit the nail on the head," says Aiyar, 
when he said, " the translation of poetry into poetry is difficult " ; 
how difficult it is, the author of this sketch has realised only too 
well in the course of writing it. " Treat your Friends ", says 
Thoreau, " for what you know them to be. Regard no surfaces. 
Consider not tohat they did but what they intended.'" We pray 
our friends to do the same and overlook the shortcomings in 
this attempt. 

In some places, Aiyar's translations have been repeated ; in 
all such cases, references to the pages where they first appear have 
been given. 

We are greatly indebted to the Rev. John Joseph Crease. 
Principal of the St. Columbas High School, New Delhi, for his 
invaluable help in correcting this essay, particularly the verses. 
An utter stranger to us, he responded immediately to our request 
and devoted many hours of his valuable time to correct this essay. 
We alone know what it was like when it was submitted to him. 
If, after all his loving labours, it is still imperfect — as indeed it 
is — it is not his fault, but the fault of the poor material we offered 
him. We thank him most sincerely for his very kind labours. 

Our thanks are also due to Miss J. Dixon of the Office of the 
High Commissioner for the United Kingdom in India for various 
•corrections which she kindly suggested to be made in this essay. 

— Publishers. 


Atop the terrace of the Virgin Bower, 

Upon the balcony o'erlooking swans 

At play with mates (in lotus-teeming pool), 

They saw a dazzling form — and stood entranced — 

Effulgence sheer of gold, the fragrance sweet 

Of blossoms, taste delicious nectar gives, 

The pleasure perfect poesy yields. 1 

Thus the poet ushers Sita into the stage of the Ramayana, 
Rama and Lakshmana, walking down the streets of Mithila, gazing 
at the various sights to right and left of them and above them, 
stop enthralled by the sight of Sita on the terrace. Vishvamitra 
had not told them the real reason of his taking them to Janaka's 
capital, and so, they were not prepared for this vision. 2 

" The artful Rishi ", says Aiyar, " took Rama and Lakshmana 
through the very street where Sita's bower was situated." Says 
the poet : 

So stood that maiden of rare loveliness 
And eye caught eye and each the other ate ; 
As quiet they stood, minds into one were fused ; 
The hero looked at her and Sita looked at him. 3 

1 I x 23 Aiyar, well-versed in the genius of the English language, has 
with unerring appropriateness translated the first two lines as follows : 

" The while she stood beside the dovecot fair, 
In her virgin bower (See page 57) 

We have, however, closely adhered to the original. It has been suggested 
to us that the swans were not on the balcony, but the balcony overlooked 
the swans at play down below. But it is a convention, some may say, in 
Tamil poetry (cf. Nala-Damayantht) for swans to be by the side of a-, 
maid in love. If, therefore, the alternative sense is preferred, the word 
' o'erlooking ' may be changed to ' amidst the '. The words in ' lotus- 
teeming pool ' are not in the original, but they do not affect the sense 
in either case. 

2 For the poet's description of Sita or rather his attempt to describe 
the indescribable, see page 7. 

3 I x 35. This rendering is by the Rev. H. A. Popley and appears in 
his work ' The Sacred Kural ' published by the Association Press, Y.M.C.A., 
5 Russell Street, Calcutta. Commenting on verse 10 of Chapter 110 of 
the Kural, Rev. Popley writes "Kambar's Ramayana in Tamil has a 
delightful illustration of this " ; and gives the stanza we have quoted 

Students of the Kural will remember Aiyar's translation of the maxim 


-And when she turned her eyes on him, 

The pair of pointed lances called her glance 

Sank deep in shoulders broad of handsome Ram : 

The lotus eyes of him with sounding anklets 

In turn empierced the bosom of the maid — 

Bewitching like enchantress fair of yore. 1 

Enchained by lassos called her drinking looks, 

And heart to heart each one adducing 'main, 

He of the banded bow and she with sword-like eyes, 

In turn entered each other's heart. 

That she could not the handsome one embrace, 

The bangled maiden like a statue stood : 

Her heart and will and beauty trailing him, 

The youth with sage dissolved from sight. 2 

Kamban's Sita was of an age to fall in love at first sight, and, 
'in his Ramayana, she suffers through forty-two verses the pangs 
of love. Not a word has passed between the two, and as Aiyar 
takes care to point out, 3 the first words which Rama speaks to her 
■were when he asked her to stay in Ayodhya while ho goes alone 
to the forests for fourteen years. Rama, in turn, suffers no whit 
less in the guest-house at Mithila, thinking of Sita whose name 
even is yet unknown to him. One glance at Sita, the yet unknown, 
was enough to set aflame the heart of Rama, and mere words 
about her were enough to enslave Ravana. When Shurpanakha 
had finished the description of Sita's person, says the poet : 

All his anger, and valour, and sense of shame now left 
his heart. Struck by the arrows of Manmatha, he forgot 
Khara, he forgot the disgrace that had befallen him, he forgot 
the limits of the blessings received by him, but he forgot not 
the fair of whom his sister spoke. 4 

Even Vishvamitra, the Raja-Rishi, is so much impressed by 
her beauty that he says to himself : 

which reads, "When eyes speak their consent to eyes,, the words of the 
mouth are quite superfluous ". Students of Kamba Ramayana and the 
Kural will also remember that Kamban has woven delightfully into his 
verses at various places numerous other maxims from the Kural. 

1 I x 36. Enchantress — Mohini, a female form of spell-binding beauty, 
which Vishnu took aeons ago to divert the attention of the Asuras while 
all of the immortality-conferring amrit churned from, the Ocean of Milk 
was distributed only to the Devas. 

2 I x 37, .38. 3 See page 56. . *. Aiyaf— See page' 239. 

SIT A ' 31$. 

' Let be that single bow ; would not our Ram 
' Of mighty arms, like hill of emerald 
In hue, e'en break the seven hills besides, 
If it was for this lotus-dwelling maid 
With smiting eyes like tender mango green 
Slit in two.' l 

Such is the beauty of Sita. 

Sita's love was no passing fancy, though it was born in a 
moment. The Swayamvara was to be held the next day, and 
whoever was able to'bend the bow of Shiva was, by a proclamation 
long since made far and wide, to be given the hand of Sita. She 
made a terrible resolve which, later, Rama is to relate to Hanuman. 
He says, as the reader will recollect, 

' Tell her I call to mind her great resolve, 
When I the bow of Shiva broke in two, 
To end herself if I should other prove 
Than him she saw with holy Kaushika.' 2 

" Children are to be seen and not heard " was once a popular 
adage. Even till very recently, and now too in many Hindu 
homes, the young wife is neither to be seen nor heard. In all her 
life in her husband's home before she left with Rama for the 
forests, and in the livelong years of exile in the forests, we hear 
Sita speak — if we recollect right — only twice, once when, under 
great stress of emotion, she says, 

' Right holy's thy purpose to obey 

Thy mother's commands, but, lord, thy word 
To me to stay at home when thou dost leave 
An exile for the wilds unknown, that word 
Has pierced my heart.' 3 

and, once again, when she asks Rama pettishly to catch the golden 
deer himself for her. Otherwise Sita's liquid eyes alone are the 
quiver-full arrows and eloquent messengers of her love. They 
were : 

i I xx 36. We have translated here the simile of a tender green mango 
to the eyes — exotic as it may seem to foreign readers — in order to 
acquaint the non-Tamils with a very picturesque simile peculiar to Tamil" 

a Aiyar— See page 57. 3 Aiyar — See page 11. 


Far grander than the lovely fawn's — her eyes — 

The lance with garland decked, 1 and smiting sword : 

The Kay'l 2 her roving eyes envied ! 3 

' The killing lance and Death itself, all these, 

We would surpass, surpass,' they seemed to say : 

The quality of her of dancing eyes 

Who can e'er tell, if hill and rampart strong, 

Hard stone, and grass saw her and melted sheer ? 

E'en so stood she, the Fruit of Womanhood ! 4 

It is with these eyes that she steals a glance at Rama on the 
wedding eve, when she was presented before Dasharatha. and 

Her doubts she shed beholding Truth behind 
Report of bow uplifted and bow snapped ; 
And with the corner of her eyes, the while 
She feigned to trim the bangles on her wrist, 
She stole a glance and cognised Him without, 
Besides within her heart. 5 

For all this speechlessness, Sita's love for Rama was deep 
and vast. Rama was her very life and soul. " Our finest 
relations ", says Thoreau, " are not simply kept silent about, but 
buried under a positive depth of silence never to be revealed." 
" Silence," he says elsewhere, " is the ambrosial night in the 
intercourse of Friends, in which their sincerity is recruited and 
takes deeper root ". What greater friends are there than lovers ? 
The love of the Hindu wife grows in such silence. " Even 
speech ", says Thoreau, " at first, necessarily has nothing with it ; 
but it follows after silence, as the buds in the graft do not put 
forth into leaves till long after the graft has taken." Sita stands 
as the ideal to all Hindu India for that speechless wifely love of 
immeasurable depth. 

Till sorrow touched her in the shape of Ravana, Sita remains 
an unsophisticated woman — we had nearly said child — a very 
sheltered and petted woman. Dasharatha is immensely proud of 
the privilege of getting her for a daughter-in-law. " Though I 

i In token of victory. 

2 Kayal — carp (cyprinus fimbrialus) ; a kind of fish, to whose eyes of 
incomparably beauty, the eyes of damsels are frequently compared in 
Tamil poetry? 

3 I x 26. ■» I x 82 5 T xx 37, 

SIT A 315 

have all the worlds seven ever to reign," he exclaims, " it is today 
that Thiru J has come to me." 

Her mothers-in-law cherished her no less. When she 
prostrated at their feet after the wedding and sought their 
blessings, they embraced her and exclaimed : 

' Who else in womankind more meet than her, 
Who else is there for him of lovely eyes ? ' 2 

And they showered on her limitless gifts of gold and ornaments, 
costly clothes and lands, and a host of handmaidens. Her life 
was spent very happily in the cloistered seclusion of the palace, 
surrounded by the most devoted attention which was ever shown 
to any loved woman or wife. 

She waited on the coronation day to see her lord come to her 
in his new-crowned glory. The reader will recollect the rude 
shock which she received when she saw him in hermit's garb, and 
the ruder one when she heard Rama bid her stay in Ayodhya while 
he wended his way to the wild forests. When she protested in 
the words we heard a little while ago, Rama said : 

' Thy tender feet 

Are not made to tread the stony wilds that burn 
Like the molten wax.' ' But can the stony wilds ' ; 
Said she, ' burn more than separation from 
My Ram ? ' 3 

So saying, before Rama could frame any reply, she went back into 
her apartments, put on coarse robes and, without a word more, 
stood by his side ready to accompany him to the forests. In this 
act of putting on the coarse cloth of fibre is revealed Sita's 
unsophistication. It was more symbolic of her resolve to follow 
Rama to the wilds than an evidence of her realisation of what the 
forest life would be. She was so innocently ignorant of the entire 
outside world that she did not know where the civilised country 
ended and where the wild forests began. Rama instructs Hanuman, 
as the reader will remember, 

' And last, 

Remind her how, when we had barely passed 

i Thiru has two meanings — Prosperity, and Lakshmi, the goddess of 
wealth. Here the word is used in both senses. 

2 I xxi 97. J Aiyar — See. page 11. 


The gates of 'Oudh, she stopped and asked, " where is 
The forest boundless in expanse ? Are we 
Arrived in it ? ' 1 

In the forests, the Rishis at every halting place did their 
best to ensure the comfort of Sita and her lord ; and when the 
dark-hued handsome Ram and she slept upon their bed, Lakshmana 

With his bow 

In hand, and with many a sigh and tear did stand 
On guard outside the whole night through, without 
A wink of sleep. 2 

And how Lakshmana serves his brother and Sita in the forests I 
His one study is to look after every little comfort of Rama and 
Sita and guard them against all enemies, known and unknown. 
It is he that builds the leaf cottages wherever they move, which 
evoke these words from Rama : 

' And Lakshmana's hands are skilled to build for us 
A tasteful cottage home. Ah ! those whom fate 
Has helpless cast upon the world, what's 
That they'll not learn to do ! ' 3 

Whatever miseries or hardships appear, Lakshmana stands at hand 
to remedy them as they approach. Rama too was well alive to 
Sita's tender soul and endeavoured to shield her from all 
knowledge of anything like hardship or the cruelty of the forests. 
He made the journey through the wilds a veritable picnic. 
Walking down the banks of the Ganges in the first stage of their 
journey southward, Rama beguiles the tedium of the journey by 
pointing out to her the swans and their sport, the swarms of bees, 
the male elephant and its female coming down to the river to 
quench their thirst, and many other sylvan sights, and shields' 
from her all that may frighten her timid unsophisticated heart. 
We shall not attempt the impossible, much as we would love to- 
give the reader a glimpse of the interplay of amorous glances 
between Rama and Sita at the sight of nature's settings which 
serve but as a foil to the love each bore the other. 4 The mincing 

l Aiyar — See page 57. 2 Aiyar — See page 398. 

3 Aiyar — See page 49. * See page 13. 

gait of the swan makes Rama turn his- eyes, ta the small fair feet 
of Sita which, ta take a phrase from the Povunardttupadai, 
resemble ' tongues of panting dogs and suit her smooth-haired 
ankles, well '. Sita sees the mighty male elephant and a tender 
smile buds on her face as she looks up at the massive shoulders 
of Rama. Thus, with love-play of glances, Rama protects Sita 
at every step from the hard realities of the world. 

We shall quote one more instance and close this phase of 
Sita's character, Sumantra, / the charioteer, who brought them 
down to the verge of the forest, was taking his leave and asked 
for messages from Rama, Lakshmana, and Sita to the court. Rama 
gave a long and statesmanlike message to his father ; and 
Lakshmana, the impetuous, said : ' : 

• Have I a message too for him, as if 

He were my king, 1 ' 

and refused to give a message to his father. Both were fully 
conscious of the import of the occasion and each in his own way 
was venting the surging emotions in his heart, but Sita was 
blissfully innocent and when she was asked for her message, she 

' To King and aunts respects mine render first, 
And tell my loving sisters three to tend 
, My golden starling and my parrot green. ' 2 

Nothing shows more clearly than this message how little had the 
banishment made any impress on her mind. She is still the 
playful young queen concerned only for her pets. 

Just as Rama in the hands of Kamban has been sublimated 
into a God, Sita too takes her place with him as of right. Says 
the poet : 

' What need for any words from us when they 
Who parted from their bed on ocean dark 
Unite again ? ' 3 

Sita was the incarnation of Lakshmi herseli 

i Aiyar— See page 75. 2 II v 40. 3 1 X 3&i- • I 



For all that, Kamban makes her most human as much in her 
concern for her pets as in her petulance or in her imperious reproof 
of Lakshmana. 

Like any young wife and many an older matron, Sita could be 
petulant when her lightest wish was not fulfilled, as we see when 
she, with tremulous lips, insists on Rama catching the golden deer 
for her. 1 

When Lakshmana is unwilling to leave her alone and go to 
the aid of Rama who, Sita believes, had come to harm, she 
turns on him with rage and contempt and spits out these words : 

*You heard my prince of faultless character 

Has fallen by the guile of Rakshas vile ; 

And still you tarry ! Are you a brother true ? ' 2 

Lakshmana's logical arguments only infuriate her the more, and 
she brands him with scorching words thus : 

' And some there are their very life lay down 
On but a day's acquaintance, but you heard 
The dying cry of him your elder one ; 
You startled not ! You stand ! What else can I 
But end my life in fire ? ' 3 

The frail woman's strength is her tears indeed ! 

Two women are designed to be, in the Ramayana, the agents 
of the destruction of Ravana — Sita and Shurpanakha. 
Shurpanakha failed in her attempt to seduce Rama, and as she 
watched him turn back into his cottage accompanied by Sita, who 
was still clinging to him, she left slowly saying to herself, 

' Deep verily is his love for her.' 

Out of this thought was born the plot which fulfils the destruction 
of Ravana and his host, and consummates the promise which 
Vishnu gave to the Devas in heaven. In the words of the poet : 

She had the might to lay low root and branch 
The King of sapphire-hued vile Rakshas race : 
She was the deadly cancer born with the quick 
Which bides its time — insep'rable ! 4 

i See page 60. 2 III viii 4. 

* I» viii 13. 4 See III v 8. 

SIT A $19 

Yibhiehana, in his lament over the death of Bavana, sees in 
:the faU of Ravana a deep-laid plot by Shurpanakha, fulfilled by 
meditated vengeance. He says : 

" Nursing the grievance that you killed her unkiliable 
husband, she conspired evil, she of the buck-teeth indenting 
her lip : the evil wretch has verily her vengeance wreaked ! ' * 
" My fault ? " she said, in answer to Ravana's query why men 
should mutilate her, " my fault ? It related to a woman whose 
waist is like the lightning, whose tender arms are like the bamboo 
stem and whose colour is that of pure gold." 2 And straightway, 
Ravana lost his heart to her of whom in retrospect Vibhishana 
says, again in his lament : 

' Unless devoured, poisons ne'er devour 
Life ; but this great poison Janaki, 
So called, with eyes just looked at you, and lo ! 
It wiped out life ! ' 3 

Thus Shurpanakha introduced Ravana to her ' who was to him 
poison mortal ' and which he instantly ' thirsted to taste, as if it 
was, the drink immortal '. And we all know the story of how he 
came in the disguise of a sanyasi to Janasthan to possess her. 

Sita, the unsophisticated, is slow to suspect the false sanyasi 
when he says : 

'In sooth I find the Rakshasa 

A friend invaluable to men like me.' 4 

She thought within her heart, ' no holy man is he, who thus 
associates with evil ones,' but she did not know, 

Poor innocent, that the wily Rakshasas 
Could at their will assume whatever shape 
Or form they pleased : and so she didn't suspect 
A worser guile. 6 

Sita and Rama had been brought up to respect and adore 
Rishis, but they cherished righteousness more than everything 

l VI ocxxvi 225. 2 Aiyar — See page 235. 

3 VI xxxvi 220. « See page 246. 5 See page 246. 


else in the world. ' The righteous care not whether ft is father, 
mother, or child' but speak up for the right boldly and 
unequivocally. The reader will recollect that when Vashistha too, 
who accompanied Bharata to bring back Rama to Ayodhya, joined 
his words, halting as they were, to the request of Bharata, Rama 
saluted him With joined palms and said : 

'That grave commandment they ere laid on me, 
With head bowed low I promised to obey : 
The same you bid me break. So tell me now, 
O worthy one, where lies my duty here ? ' 1 

Sita who had stood by when these never-to-be forgotten words 
were spoken, which silenced Vashistha into shame, Sita, who had 
heard Rama solemnly promise to the Rishis the utter destruction 
of all the Rakshasas, and had seen and heard of his might with 
the bow, was stung into fury when she heard Ravana the sanyasi 

' When the Rakshasas do rule 

The worlds without a peer, what can we do 

Of holy endeavour unless we walk 

Their way, and earn their friendship and their love ' 2 

Her fears fled, her timidity shrank back, only her righteous 
indignation blazed forth. 3 

' The while the Prince of Dharma here performs 
Austerities rare,' said she, ' dead will be 
The Rakshasas of sinful walk of life 
And all their kin : thereon the world will rid 
Of menace be ! * 

Ravana interrupted and said : 

' If thou dost say the men will overthrow 
The Rakshasas with root and branch, forsooth, 
The timid hare would kill the mammoth large, 
And horn-ed deer would gore the mighty lion 
Of cruel claws ! ' 5 

1 II xii 128. 2 Aiyar— See page 246. i 

3 See pages 244 to 246 for the earlier portion of this interview. 

4 HI viii 56. s in viii 57. 

»i SIT A 321 

, Sita retorted with angry tear,s stinging her eyes : 

4 It seems you have not heard the battle dire, 
, "Where perished yon Viradha called Red-Head, 

And Vict'ry-laden Khar and all his host ! ' l 

She continued, prophetess-like : 

' Will you not see tomorrow e'en before 
Your eyes the Rakshasas of Lanka isle 
And all their kin succumb to might of Ram, 
And Devas pure exalted once again ? 
Can Sin o'er mighty virtue e'er prevail ? ' 2 

This infuriated Ravana who shouted in bravado : 

' Dost thou want the Meru Hill to be uprooted, or the 
vault of heaven to be broken, or the ocean to be stirred to its 
depths, or the fire in its bosom to be extinguished, or even 
the earth to be lifted on high ? Which of these are impossible 
to Ravana, whose words are few, but deeds are mighty and 
many, O innocent one ? ' 3 

Sita countered in her simplicity 

' Cluster of whirling arms, do they lend strength ? 
The clanging anklet hero, — who confined 
The King of Lanka, Ravan you speak of — 
His forest of arms galore, a thousand all, 
Was't not a lad with arms no more than two 
Who felled them all with but his axe ? ' 4 

And with this spell she unlocked the doors of evil, and lo, the 
colossus grew before her eyes and struck her speechless with terror. 
Ravana stood revealed before her in his true form, 5 and with his 
ten tongues roared : 

' Look on my prowess by the Devas served ; 

Me to the earthy worms you dare compare ! 

You live, as woman you are, else to eat 

You crushed had I e'en thought : but with the thought 

My life 1 had perished too ! ' 6 

1 HI viii 58. 2 III viii 58. 3 Aiyar— See page 258. 

* HI viil 63. 5 See page 249. « HI viii 67. 


Saying so, he tried to soothe her fears and later voiced Ms -foul 

Ravana's open declaration of love is given by- Kamban in less 
than a score of words, and for all the wisdom-destroying passion 
of Ravana, the words are highly dignified and are not the lustful 
ravings of a roving libertine. These, as Aiyar had pointed out, * 
Kamban contained in Ravana's unspoken thoughts on seeing Sita. 
Ravana here says with great restraint, 

' Be not alarmed, my darling Swan ! ' he said, 
' While I on my unbending serried heads 
Do bear on each a crown, and goddesses 
Bedecked with jewels serve at your proud feet, 
Do thou deign share with me the monarchy 
Of fourteen worlds.' 2 

Sita's lotus hands flew to close her oars in horror, while she- 
flung at him these words : 

' To me, the chaste of Kakutstha the great — 
Who bears the shapely cruel bow of note — 
E'en like the craven cur that coveteth 
The pure oblation those of righteous life 
Offer the flames, what said you, Rakshasa 

' Doth one lose birth and priceless honour old 
For fear of losing precious life that fades 
E'en as the dew on tiny blade of grass ? 
Long ere the cruel darts like thunder strike, 
If you desire the safety of your life, 
And would hide, fly, fly away ! ' 3 

He was not awed, but said, ' Your husband cannot harm me 
any, and his darts will fall like arrows of flowers against my 
rock-like chest ' : and entreated again thus : 

' O Goddess thou to Her on lotus bloom ! 

To my body racked by the ill called love of thee, 

Give life ; and take the place exalted far — 

Not e'en to Deva damsels giv'n to reach ! ' 

So saying, he fell prostrate at her feet — 

1 See page 243. « III viii 68. 3 ni v iil 69, 70. 

sita 323 

E'en he of arms far stronger than the hill' ' i i, «' 
, . Which bears aloft the world. x , 

Sita screamed with outraged terror and called in panic on 
departed Lakshmana for help. Instantly Ravana scooped up her 
hut with her in it and rose sheer in his chariot into the sky towards 
Lanka. Thus Sita woke from her trusting simplicity to the cruel 
world. We have seen how up to the last moment terror only lent 
her greater courage and firmness to stand unshaken on the codes 
of life, worthy to be cherished more than life itself. 2 

Ravana carried her off to Lanka and hoped to break her spirit 
with confinement. Racked by despair mounting with the tedious 
months, unwashed, unkempt, weeping all day long and the livelong 
night, eyes swollen with piercing the far northern horizon for 
Rama who came not yet, terrorised and cajoled in turn by fearful 
guards, emaciated to the bone by long self-denial of sustenance, 
Sita, hoped Ravana, would be more malleable. And he comes to 
her in all his pomp and glory many times to persuade her to take 
him ; spurned again and again he returns like a cur to her feet. 
He came once when Hanuman was a hidden witness, and to 
Hanuman's ineffable joy, Sita lacked not a whit her righteous 
indignation or adamantine loyalty to her chastity. 3 

Ravana came in state surrounded by a guard of amazons, and 
Indra and other gods watched unwinking with bated breath and 
fearfully wondered : 

' What now, what evil plot thinks he, 
And who will it now end ? ' 

Hanuman came nearer, the better to watch, repeating in silence 
the mystic name of Ram. Agonised, with his heart aflutter, he 
saw her shrinking and trembling, her very life in torment, and 
him mad with lust, and pronounced a benediction on Janaki : 

' Blessed be Janaki, 
Blessed be Raghava, 
Blessed the Vedas four, 
Blessed the Brahmanas, 
Blessed be Dharma true \ ' 4 

i III viii 72. 

2 Cf. Kural XTV-1. 'Right conduct to true greatness leads; 

It should be held more dear than life Itself.' 

— Rev. Popley's translation. 

3 Another incident which Aiyar had reserved for his chapter on Sita — 
See page 215. 

* V iv 23. ■ ' 


The reader will recollect that Aiyar had pointed out that 
Ravana had paid other visits before, trying to wear down Sita's 
will, but he had been spurned time and again. 1 His assurance 
has, therefore, wilted, and he, 

Who though he met his match in Majiadev, 2 
Had not e'er his assurance lost, with lust 
And shrinking shame 3 at war within his mind, 
Halting, halting, humbly spoke thus. 4 
' The days are passing one by one away, 
And this is all the kindness thou hast shown 
To me!' 5 

he entreated, and bitterly exclaimed, 

' Mean'st thou t' accept me when I'm dead — 

Aye, murdered by thy cruelty ? ' 6 

' O scorn it not but do accept 

Me as thy slave, who rule the triple worlds 
Without a rival or peer ! ' He ended, 
And raising his hands above his serried heads, 
He fell prostrating at her feet. 7 

■ These poisonous words, grown unbearable by repetition, 
opened the flood-gates of Sita's wrath. 

The words, like smoking s.kewers, long ere they 
Entered, her ears were scorched ; her heart stood still ; 
Hot blood inflamed her eyes : she cared not for 
What may befall her life, but stinging words 
' ' ' Not fit for womanhood, thus spoke : 

' Improper are these noxious words of yours 
To woman treading path of wedded life • 

1 See page 17. 

2 Shiva humbled him when he tried to carry away the KaUash Hill 
with Shiva and Parvathi enthroned thereon. 

3 * Nan ' the original term in Tamil stands for the spontaneous 
shrinking of the soul from wrong-doing — a sensitiveness to shame. 

* V iv 2§. 

3 -Aiyar — See page 37. Students of Shakespeare will recall the follow- 
ing lines from Macbeth : 

; "Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow 

Creeps in this petty pace from day to day." , 

6 Aiyar — See page 247. 1 Aiyar— See page 248, ^ 

s i t a 325 

:Oh list to me and learn, you scum of the earth ! 
Seen you e'er women stony-hearted but 
With chastity ? 

' To pierce the Meru or to crack the vault of heaven, 
Or to lay waste the fourteen worlds entire, 
Not any but the Aryan's dart there is : 
Witting, O witless fool, would you yet say 
' Unseemly words and your ten heads lay low ? 1 

' Because you were afraid that day, you sought 
His absence, so you sent a crafty deer, 
And by your skill in Maya came disguised : 
If live you would, this moment set me free. 

' When him, the poison to your cursed race, 
You face, your eyes his gaze would stand indeed ! 
Your heads twice five and shoulders abundant 
Will be but target for Ram's easy sport. 
You are a fighter bold indeed ! Did not 
. ' Jatayus fell you down to earth that day ? 

' He who lived on the hill you took — the same 
Who with his cruel feet did crush your pride — 
His Meru bow with which he sped the dart 
Which wiped away the fortresses three, you wot ? 
Seems you heard not Ihe boom that noted day, 
When it was snapped, as of but little might, 
By prowess of the arm of Ram my mate ! 

4 You boast of hill uplifted ; you declare, 

' The mammoths guarding points twice four, I crushed ' 

You dared not come the while Ram's brother stood , 

At hand ; yet bold you are to prostrate flat 

At feet of woman too ! 

- . - ' O you of baleful eyes inspiring fear 

In heaven and earth, I pray forsake forthwith 
Your evil ways. The lotus-dwelling Lord, 
Or Vishnu, Brahm, did you mistake my Ram 
. For one of these ? You utter simpleton ! 

1 Sec also page 17, 


' O think not lightly these are bat mere men ; 
If mighty Kartavir of thousand arms 
Was by a man laid low, do ponder well 
On might of Ram ! 

' If you despise them for they are but two, 
The world's Destroyer on the Day of Doom, 
Is he but one or more ? When war is come, 
How true are these my words you shall perceive ! 
Alas you will for certain lose your all 
And perish dire ! 

' The Rishis did relate your prowess great, 
And fame of Rakshas might ; if natheless they 
Defaced your sister dear, and brothers' arms 
And feet did lop, would you not think on it ? 

' The news of him who severed one and all 
The mighty limbs of him of thousand arms — 
E'en he who held your twenty while he smote 
Your face till blood your twice five mouths bespat. 
And more, immured you too — have you not heard ? 
O you outcaste to righteous path ! 

' To spells the biting serpent will lend ear, 

But you, O Reveller, there is not one 

To counsel what is meet and what is not, 

And give rebuke. 1 But those there are who but 

Reflect your thoughts, and you subvert. And so, 

Couldst this result in aught else but your end ? ' 2 

Havana's mounting anger surged forth and would tear and eat 
her up but love opposed, and he- departed and yet departed not. 
Love won, and he said some conciliatory words 3 and went his way 
* bearing her image away in his heart '. 

Sita's unwavering firmness in the face of the greatest dangers 
and unimaginable hardships has been, and will continue to be, a 
beacon light through the centuries for millions of Hindu women 
caught in the sea of a wife's life, where the oglers are the rocks, 

1 Cf. Kural XLV 8. ' Behold the prince who reposeth not on the 
support of men who can rebuke him : he will perish even when he hath 
no foes.' — Aiyar's translation. 

2 V iv 38-42, 45, 46, 49-51, 57-59. 3 See page 18. 

sita 327 

the libertines the sharks, the abductors are the stomal, the silver- 
tongued family friend the sunken coral reef, and the village 
zamindar is Ravana himself. 

Much as Sita, in her fury roused, captures our imagination, 
her despondency and her rejoicing do no less pluck at our heart- 
strings, and we weep with her, we sigh with her, and our body 
and soul swell with joy at her joy. 

The poignancy of Sita's grief in her solitude and the 
none-the-less pathetic rejoicing on seeing Rama's ring have been 
painted by the master-craftsmen of the epic with an intensity 
that has deeply moved not only scholars, but, in the 
re-telling through countless generations, has lost nothing and yet 
sways multitudes through story- telling, the stage and cinema, and 
even the erude village festival theatre with rough yokels for actors 
and a property tree for a background. 

Of Sita in tears, the poet says, 

The noble Birth, the Chastity, 
The Patience of extremest kind, 
Benevolence and Feminine Grace, 
If all these had a form and lived 
Amidst surging sea of water. 
It is Seetha shedding tears ; 
A God with human heart is she. l 

In twenty heart-ringing stanzas, Kamban portrays her state 
and her despair-laden thoughts even while Hanuman was entering 
the Ashokavana where she was kept captive. 2 

Surrounded by the thronging Rakshasis 
Of hefty loins, like mountain med'cine herb 
Sheer foreigner to moisture, even so, 
Shrivelled was she of bloom ; and even like 
Her slender waist, her body all was worn. 

Forsaken had her eyes all sleep or droop 
Of lids in weariness, or even wink : 
Of body lustreless like a lamp in th' sun, 
So like a doe 'midst fang-ed tigers wild, 
She seemed. 

i A Garland of Tamil Poetry published by the Karanthai Tamil 
Sangam, Tanjavur. 

2 See page 213 et seq. tor the description of Sita as Hanuman saw her. 


Fall,' sob, burn the body O'er ; 

Start, yearn, grieve, think on Ram 

And worship mute ; droop, quake, sigh j 

With racking woe weep — naught else but these 

She knew to do. 

The heavy cloud, collyrium so black, 

Aught else deep dark, 1 espying would shed tears 

Onrushing to the sea. 

' I'd fain give up this life, but seldom can 

One's fate surmounted be,' she feared and thought, 

For sake of Surya's race and blot thereto, 

He would come, come he would, the Veda's Lord : * 

Thus hoping e'er she quartered all around 

The compass points with piercing eyes. 

She knew not any other than 

The single garment rarer far than smoke : 

Her body stranger to swan-sporting pool, 

Just like a figurine — which Manmatha 

Did mould from ocean nectar— grimed with smoke, 

E'en so her body was ! 2 

She would, puzzled, muse : 

Perhaps Lakshman met him not or haply he knows not 
there's one Lanka amidst the surfing sea. 


Though the King of Vultures dead be, 
Are there none besides, my state to reveal ? 


Hearing the thoughtless words me sinful uttered to 
Lakshmana, did he forsake me, for, I was wanting in wisdom ? 

1 Rama was dark-hued. 2 V iii 3t5, 7, 9; .1U 

sita 329- 

or > 

Deeming Rakshasas would have spared me not this long 
while, but would have feasted on me, did he even so conclude 9 
' Now, is there aught I can do '. 


Perchance his brothers and mothers, have they come 
Again, and called him back to lovely Oudh ? 
But he would never return, the while the days 
To Kaikey vowed unfulfilled yet remain. 
Alas, has any ill befallen him ? 2 

She would recall the image of Rama scene by scene through 
the years past, and suffer tortures bitter-sweet. 

She'd swoon remembeimg her dauntless lion 
As he stood with beaming face resplendent far, 
The while the daughter stern of Kekay said, 
' This foeless country wide your brother's is.' 3 


She'd meditate on that fair face of his, 

Which both when bidden by his father dear 

To rise to throne imperial of Oudh 

As well as when his mother ordered him 

To leave his all and live a forest life, 

Just like the lotus bloom in picture drawn 

Was e'er the same ! 

She would pine away, 

Recollecting those shoulders bunching taut, 
To break in twain, long ere one could suspect, 
The Meru bow the fire-eyed God, — e'en he 
With Ganga-laden crest — did wield of old. 

Again, she would be agitated thinking on him — as peerless frierid- 1 - 
when he said 

1 Aiyar— See page 70. 2 V iii 12-17. 

J V Mi 19. * V iii 20. Aiyar— See page 401 


To him who plied the Ganges deep, Guha — 
A lowly forester as e'en he was — 
' Lakshman my brother here is brother thine ; 
And thou my comrade ; and this maiden here, 
Is brother's wife to thee.' l 

Her form would thrill again at thought of when 
He gently freed his hand from hers — which ere 
Her sire had with her's clasped, — and lifted up 2 
Her tender foot in Vedic rite of yore. 3 

She would grieve, recalling to mind : 

The pain of Rama when he saw his brother 
Wear not the crown upon his head, but wear 
The dusty twisted knot of hair. 4 

She would sob inconsolably thinking of him as he was 

Bereft of heritage, ere to the wild 
Forests he left, on greedy Brahmana 
A herd of heifers he bestowed and saw 
His boundless avarice, and how a smile 
Flitted across his face ! 5 

And she lifted her hands over her head in obeisance, as to her 
mind came : 

The single dart he sped on Indra's son 6 
And pierced its eye and lo, the raven world 
Entire fell sightless by that single feat ! 7 

Ravana intruded on her in this state to plead his case again 3 
and we saw how she was roused to white-hot fury and piled insult 
upon insult on him till he slunk away like a whipped cur. She 

i V iii 23. 

2 A symbolic ritual in the Hindu marriage ceremony when the bride- 
groom lifts the foot of the bride and, placing it on a curry-stone, directs 
her to look at the Morning Star (Venus), the personification of Arundhati — 
the wife of Rishi Vashistha ' and the ideal of Chastity. 

3 V iii 24. * V iii 25. Aiyar— See page 49. 

5 V iii 26. 

6 The storv will be found later on, in Sita's own words, in the message 
she gives to Hanuman to carry to Rama. 

7 V iii 28. 8 See pages 247 and 324. 

S I T A 331 

fell to soliloquising again, and deep despair swamped her heart ; 
and she sank under it even to the point of determining to take her 
life. 1 Hanuman revealed himself by pronouncing aloud the 
life-saving name of Ram, and, after establishing himself in her 
confidence by speech and message, he presented to her Rama's 
signet ring. 2 

Sita's relief and belief have been mounting, step by step, from 
the moment of hearing Rama's name, through suspicion, relief, 
trust, confidence and joy ; but the sight of the ring was as a 
talisman to her and threw her into a delirium of ecstasy. " What 
.shall I compare it to ", says the poet : " was she 

Like e'en more dead unearn-ed mukti 3 gained, 
Or the fallen from Jnan 4 to Reality returned, 
Or the barren woman who a child begot — 
To what shall I compare her state ? " 

She took the ring and now to her bosom pressed ; 

Now set upon her head : and now on eyes 

In kiss impressed : her shoulders filled with joy. 

She wilted, cooled, burned ; her breath did cease : 

And revived anon. 

She'd bury her nose in it : now hug it close 

To her bosom ; wiping off the clouding tears 

From her joyous eyes, would gaze so long at it ; 

Would think to utter words but words would fail : 

With mounting frenzy she put it in her mouth ! 5 

Such was Sita's capacity for joy. 

We shall see that Sita, pining as she was to rejoin her lover, 
and had, but a little while ago, been quartering all the points of 
the compass with her eyes for Rama's coming, and had, a moment 
since, resolved to end her life in despair, is still the supreme 
woman, ever mindful of what is befitting her chastity. Hanuman 
had just shown her his vishvwrupa 6 to prove to her how he crossed 
the sea. Impelled by perhaps a suspicion of a desire to exhibit 
his prowess, and certainly, no less, by a genuine eagerness to end 
quickly Sita's misery, and serve Rama, he offers to carry her back 
on his shoulders to Rama, 

i See page 216 et seq. 2 See page 216 et seq. 

3 Release from the cycle of births and deaths. 

■* Consciousness of God. s V v 64-67. 6 Colossal form. 


■ When he said those sweet words, ' it is not impossible foe him ** 
thought Sita, and replied thus to Mm, who stood even like a 
yeanling calf before its mother. 

' 'Tis not impossible and well befits 

Your prowess ; truly what you contemplate 

You would achieve ! But 'tis not proper far, 

Methinks, in my artless femininity 

Of scanty sense.' x 

She perceives the extreme love and devotion that prompted 
the offer, but recognises more clearly the utter impropriety of 
accepting it ; and with a delicacy, which only the truly great can 
be capable of, she refuses gently, piling reason upon diverse 
reason, which make Hanuman acknowledge the rightrtess of her 
words, without feeling foolish or sorry that he spoke. She begins, 
as we saw above, by belittling her sensibilities. She says, next,, 
that she would be an encumbrance. 

' When o'er the ocean deep, the cruel foes 
Surround and let fly angry darts at you, 
Nor poison fell to them, nor sure defence 
To me will you be ; but encumbered sore, 
Falter, O you without a peer ! ' 2 

A slur to Rama's name, she knew, would hurt Hanuman to 
the heart and, therefore, she says next, 

' There's one thing further more : the Aryan's 3 bow 

Of mighty victories will tarnished be. 

In sooth, could there be worser gratitude ? 

Did you too think to trick me off e'en as 

The curs 4 that ran away with the amrit 5 pure ? ' 6 

Hanuman had, just a little while ago, told her of the mighty 
army mobilised on the mainland. She recollects this and, drawing 
the next argument from the former one, says with vehemence : 

' Unless in th' war to come, my liege, the Ram — 
His bowmanship displaying to the worlds — 

1 V vi 12. 2 v vi 13. 3 Rama. 

* Maricna and Ravana. s sita. « V vi 14 

S I T A 333 

Does feed to crows the eyes of him that dared 
To look on me, shall I yet live ? 
Until those bowmen — whose exulting strings 
In triumph twang — their archery do crown, 
And mangal-strings of shameless Rakshasis 
Are severed with their noses likewise too, 
Would e'er my rescued honour honoured be ? ' l 

What of my reputation, she asks, and says : 

' Till golden Lanka's heaped a mountain high 
With th' bones of th' hateful enemies, my birth 
And conduct, stainless chastity, all these. 
Oh, how shall I reveal to strangers all ? ' 2 

The arguments gather force without offence, and she could 
now speak of her own prowess : 

' What to speak of these afflictive creatures vile 
O'er here ? Let be the boundless worlds entire, 
I could with curses burn. As slight 'twould be 
To prowess great of Ram with th' bow, the thought 
I banned.' 3 

The clinching and the only argument could be said now : 

' One more there is to say, oh list, true one '. 
For bar the body of my Knight, e'en you 
With senses five contained, or any male, 
So named, could this form touch ? ' 4 

' So, go . 

For, 'tis not meet. Now, to return in haste 
To the lord of the Ved is duty thine,' she said ; 
And the faultless one replied ' Aye ! Aye ! ' 5 

In all the ten thousand and odd poems of the Kamba 
Ramayana, barely three or four chapters — padalams — are solely 
devoted to Sita, but, on this small canvas, the poet has painted 

l V vi 15, 16. 2 v vi 17. ! V vi 18. 

* V vi 18 5 v vi 26. 27. 



her with such intensity and etched detail that, even years after we 
had laid aside the book, it is she who comes first to mind when 
thinking on the Ramayana> and it is the verses from her lips 
which well up to our lips from the springs of our heart. Swinging 
from the depths of despair to rapturous heights of joy, only to 
sound the bottom of despondenc/ again, she keeps us prisoner with 
her in the lonely isle. Hanuman, after acknowledging that she 
was right, asked her for a message to Rama. Her reply is full 
of misgivings and, in spite of her, a certain bitterness rings in her 
sweet words. 

' But one more moon shall I endure e'en here — 
This is my message true, O righteous one ! — 
More, I shall not my hfe sustain. And this, 
I swear by him my King ! Take this to heart ! 

' Tho' I might not be fitting mate to him 
Of garland rolling chest, tho' his heart be void 
Of ruth, tell him it is his duty plain 
To save his valour's fame. 

' In but one moon austerity mine expires ; 
If he does not come here within that time, 
Let him on banks of Ganga's tidal flood 
With lotus hands of his my obsequies 
Perform ! 

" Remind him of the solemn vow he made 
That day he took my hand in wedlock rite : 
' Not e'en in thought will I in this my life 
A second woman touch ' ; he swore to me : 
Drum these words in his ear." 

' Do make it clear to him that I but crave 

With salutation low this single boon : 

E'en if I stay and end my life down here, 

Let it be granted me to be reborn 

And gain the blessing rare which ends all sin — 

To touch his form divine. 

' The while he rules enthroned, or rides in state 
The haltered elephant with bells of choice, 
Or his resplendent aspects manifold 
On avenues to see I am not blest. 

sita 335 

Of what avail is it to speak of them ? 
Let me on my past Karma dwell. 

' To the world sore languishing for him so long, 
At his mother's grief, and at distress which Bharat 
Endures, he'll speed. To me in agony 
Down here, how would he come ? ' J 

Hanuman, the skilful ambassador and devotee of Rama, 
consoles her in a long spirited speech. " What would good men 
and the learned say," he exclaims " if we returned without rescuing 

you from the captivity of thr unrepentant foes You 

will see here rise a huge mountain, reaching to the sky — rare even 
for Vali to cross — of the thalis 2 discarded by the Rakshasis. And 
he concluded with a dire oath, 

' Within that day you have now said to me 
If he does not deliver you from durance vile, 

dame of fragrant locks;, let infamy 
Unutterable and sin envelope him. 
Thence Ravana is he o'er there and he 
Here now is truly Ram.' 3 

Joy again suffused Sita's face, and she now gave out certain 
secrets to tell Rama as irrefutable evidence of Hanuman having 
truly seen her. In doing so, with characteristic feminine skill, 
she conveys to him a hint not to blurt out to Rama everything 
she had said before. 

' Now speed thee hence ; may you avoid all harm : 

1 have no more to add ; all that I need, 

I've said. To my liege repeat, as wise you are, 
What is but propitious.' * 

'Whisper to him how 

Once on the mountain side where elephants 
Do range, a raven came and clawed me sore 
With cruel toes, and lo, in fiery rage 

1 V vi 29, 30, 32, 34-37 

2 The symbol in gold of the married state, and which is snapped off 
with a wrench and discarded on being widowed. 

3 V vi 74. 4 v vi 76. , 


He took a blade of grass that lay at hand, 
And one relentless dart he sped. 

" Recount how Sayantha, the lustful crow — 
Devender's son — to Shiv and all the gods 
Besides in terror flew, and each in turn 
Asylum barred ; and all with one accord 
Cried : ' Fall, fall at his lotus feet 
And refuge gain ! ' " 

" Say how when he, affrighted far, to earth 
Flew down entreating loud ' O Lord, your feet, 
Your feet's retreat I seek,' and prostrate fell, 
The Bounteous Lord well pleased did bid the dart 
Depart content with but one baleful eye. 
Forthwith the raging dart divine was spent. 

" ' Because you cried, ' asylum 'sylum grant,' 

The Lord said, ' straightway on your heinous crime 

Forbearance I bestow.' And he decreed, 

' Hence let the raven race, whose form you bear 

In front of me, have but one eye-ball each.' 

And so it came to pass. E'en this relate." 

' Add how as Sayantha left freed of fear, 
The Devas flowers rained, and Lakshmana 
Uncomprehending puzzled stood : e'en thus 
This victory so sweet relate.' l 

Though Sita felt great consolation when Hanuman said that 
the thaUs of the Rakshasa women would pile up into a huge 
mountain, and though she herself said ' where shall my honour be 
if Ram did not cut off the noses of these shameless women, nay, 
make them all bereft of the mangal string', she was truly pity 
personified indeed. We saw how when Sumantra asked her for 
a message to the court, 2 her one thought was for her pets, and 
she said : 

' And tell my loving sisters three to tend 
My golden starling and my parrot green.' 

Again, when she was assailed by doubts and fears, now torturing 
herself with the thought that Rama had perhaps forsaken her for 

J V vl 77, 78, 79, 81, 82. 2 See page 317. 

sit a 337 

the thoughtless harsh words she spoke to Lakshmana, and now 
with the fear that he may have concluded that the Rakshasas 
would not have spared her so long and might have eaten her 
up, an inconsequential concern for Rama intrudes itself between 
her fears, and she grieves wondering : 

' Now who serves him the tender salad leaves, 

And when he guests receives how would he tend ? ' l 

We see it again, her thoughtfulness for others, in her request 
to Rama while they were flying back to Ayodhya at the end of 
the fourteen years' exile. She looked in her aerial car and missed 
something. They were just then passing over a town, and when 
Rama, who was pointing out to her along the route the sites of 
many a poignant memory, said, ' this is Kishkinda,' she spoke up : 

' If this be Kishkind, lord, oh list to me ! 
Encircled by this mighty martial force — 
Which e'en the Devas dread — but circled not 
By retinue of countless damsels fair, 
If I shall reach Ayodhya all alone, 
My womanhood would greatly clouded be : 
'Tis duty thine to take into this car 
The Vanar damsels too ! ' 2 

Who but Sita can picture better the anxiety-ridden hearts of 
wives parted from husbands, and sweethearts from lovers, and it 
is solicitude which prompts her request, but she would, like all 
givers, make the receiver a giver seem. 

This natural pity becomes divine in the case of the Rakshasa 
women. After Ravana had been killed, Rama sent Hanuman to 
tell Sita the news. When he had re-breathed life into her wasted 
frame, Hanuman looks around and sees the Rakshasis who had 
guarded her in her captivity and had terrorised and cajoled her 
in turn to yield to Ravana. He turned to Sita and prayed 
" Permit me to annihilate all these Rakshasis but Trisadai 3 , and 
burn them in their own sins." The terrified Rakshasis rushed to 
Sita, and clasping her feet would not forsake them. 

i V iii 15. 

2 VI xxxvii 176. 

3 Daughter of Vibhishana and the only friend to Sita hi her captivity. 


'Fear not, fear not,' assured the Mother Ruth, 
And turning on the Maruthi, she asked 
'What harm have these e'er done, but spoke to me- 
E'en as he bid them speak ? ' 

' It is by Karma done by me of old 
This tribulation came, O you far more 
Loving than mother mine ? In sooth, these are 
Not more inhuman than the hunchback maid : 
Mind not what's past, O thou wise one ! ' 

' Grant me this prayei ,' thus entreated she ; 
' Desist from torturing the minds of these 
Affrighted fools — the home where evil dwells.' 
Thus pleaded she whose face made e'en the moon's 
Break out in spots with envy green ! 1 

Thus she craved a boon for her enemies, even she who- 
conferred the boon of immortality on Hanuman. But it is Sita. 
the ideal wife, who has guided down the centuries countless Hindu 
wives, and earned for them too a share of her undying fame and 
glory. Sita has never a thought for herself, but it is always 
Rama's honour which is her concern night and day. For this, 
she would even lay down her life. Rama sent Vibhishana to fetch 
her from the Ashdkavana. When Vibhishana gave her the message 
and asked her to get ready, clothed and adorned as befitted the 
queen of his Saviour, Sita insisted on going to the presence of 
Rama as she was, unwashed, unkempt, ' a figurine begrimed with 
smoke '. But Vibhishana said, ' These are the commands of Rama,* 
and she said no more. The celestial maidens, Rambai and others, 
took great pleasure in getting her ready for her reunion with her 
lord, and right royally fitted her out in the most costly garments 
and ornaments. Vibhishana seated her in a vimana and brought 
her to Rama. Her heart swelling with joy as she neared him, she 
shed her sorrow thinking, 

' My mate in chain of births, and mate of mine 
Nevertheless when irksome birth shall cease, 
I have adored. It matters not if hence 
My mind I lose or even here fall dead.' 2 

-1 -VI xxxvii 34, 36. 2 VI xxxvii' 59. 

sita 339 

To her, Rama said these words, at which the Rishis and Devas, 
and countless women too, albeit called Rakshasis, and all the 
monkey host — all who stood around-^shuddered, and a horrified 
tumult arose. Rama said : 

' You loved the fleshly form, and honour stained ; 

And yet died not : but risked your conduct pure 

And stayed content one year in capital 

Of Rakshasas of evil walk of life. 

With what design have you returned unabashed ? 

Is it that" I would cherish you ? 

' 'Twas not to rescue you I filled the sea, 

And felled down root and branch the Rakshasas 

With all their arms of might like thunderbolts, 

And overthrew the lonely foe as well. 

It was for naught but to redeem my name 

That I to Lanka came ? 

' Did you e'en eat the flesh of living kind 
As sweeter far than amrit pure ? And took 
Your fill of heady wine and lived content ? 
Do tell me, loveless one, could there be more 
Agreeable fare for us as well ? 

' The lustre of your virtues all has gone : 

In noble lineage you were not born, 

But like the spineless worm, born from the earth, 1 

You have but played your part too well ! 

' Womanhood and its glory, Noble Birth, 
And the adamantine will called Chastity, 
Enlightenment, Propriety, Truth itself, 
By your birth have vanished like the noted fame 
Of the king without beneficence. 

' The senses five would they contain, and in 
Their conduct celibate, with matted hair. 
Austerities endure. And should some ill 
Befall them meantime, would e'en with their lives 
Atone — the women of propriety fine.' 2 

i Sita was turned up by the plough in a furrow by King Janaka 
and was brought up by him. . , ■ 

2 VI xxxvil 62-67. . i ' 


Sita was stunned by these words. 

And grieving like a wound by probe explored, 
Blood and tears suffused her downcast eyes ; 
With senses dazed she heaved a sigh. 

And she recoiled e'en like the lovely deer, 
By raging thirst consumed in desert wild, 
(And watched by teeming vultures from above) 
Which sees a water-hole, but quicker still, 
Sees a barrier insuperable ! 1 

She composed herself presently, and with great restraint 
addressed these words to Rama : 

" The son of Vayu 2 came and seeing me 

Did truly say, ' My Lord, he would here come.' 

Did not the lofty one tell you, my Lord, 

My languished state ? In sooth, a messenger 

He failed to be ! " 

' Austerities mine, and chastity so pure, 

And all that I endured so long down here 

Have madness been, and, yea, in vain. For, them, 

O Noble one, you have not realised ! 

' I may be the chastest to the world entire, 
And of heart unfaltering, beyond e'en Brahm 
To shake. Ah, foolish me ! If you, who are 
The focus of the world deny, would God 
Acknowledge me ? 

' Though He the lotus-borne 3 and the Lord on the bull 4 
And the Lord of Righteousness with conch in hand, 5 
Were they to gaze as in the ball of glass 
On palm outstretched, could they a woman's heart 
E'er gauge ? 

' If thus with them, for whom do I retail 
Down here austerities mine void of flaws ? 

I VI xxx vii 70, 71. 2 Hanuman. 

3 Brahma. * Shiva. s Vishnu. 

S I T A 341 

Far better death than aught else ; fitting too 
It is, O Ved ! — The same is your command ; 
The same my fate as well ! ' x ' 

Sita had had forebodings of the probability of some catastrophe 
like this. The reader will no doubt recall to mind her misgiving 
-which she expresses in these words : 

' But sooth, will he admit again 

One who has lived so long in this sinful land ? ' 2 

and adds in self-reproach : 

' Where is the chaste 

In story or in life who has loved her life 
When forced away from home by lustful men ? 
Is not my honour great, and modesty, 
Who cling e'en now to life ? ' 3 

Thus she castigates herself, and she further poses to herself 
the question, ' how shall I vindicate my chastity ? ' 

" Ah, wretched me ! 

When Rama shall have destroyed his 4 race for e'er 
And freed me from my prison, how shall I prove 
My virtue uncorrupt, if he should say, 
' Away, thou art not worthy of my love ? ' " 5 

' So death alone is Dharma's way for me,' 6 she had concluded 
long before in Ashokavana. 

So, now she asked Lakshmana, — who whatever misery comes, 
' stands ready to remedy it as it approaches ' — to light a huge fire, 
and apostrophising it thus : 

' If by thought or word I'm stained, let fury yours 
Burn me, O Lord of the flames ! ' 7 

she saluted her lord and leapt into the fire. 

1 VI xxxvii 73-77. 

243 Aiyar — See page 215 et seq. 

* Havana's. s Aiyar — See pages 215 et seq. 

« Aiyar— See page 216. 1 VI xxxvii 84. 


The Lord of Fire rose from the flames bearing her unhurt 
in his hands and led her up to Rama's side. Rama accepted her, 
and the world breathed. 1 

" Even the Gods Three, could they grasp a woman's mind ? " 
said Sita addressing Rama ; we could alter her words and say 
with absolute truth, " Even the Gods Three, could they Sita's 
virtue comprehend ? " Sita asked Rama, " Did not Maruthi tell 
you, my lord, my state ? " He did indeed ! But could even Rama 
fully comprehend ? 

' What pity,' thinks Hanuman, on first discovering Sita in the 

' What pity 'tis not given to Ram to see 
With his own eyes this holy one, as she 
Does lead her life austere in Lanka's grove.' 2 

We shall, in our lame and halting words, try to give the 
reader a faint idea of the exulting report of Hanuman to Rama 
on his return from Lanka, and conclude our sketch of the Divine 
Sita's character-study. 3 From Dadhimuka's account of the riotous* 
behaviour of the Vanaras, Sugriva guessed that Hanuman had 
returned from Lanka, and Rama stood longingly watching his 

" Came Han'man : and coming, worshipped not 
His Majesty's twin feet but turned to her * 
Devoid of bloom ; with hands held o'er his head 
In reverence, he fell down fiat on earth, 
And long intoned her name ! 

1 " There is a blot in Rama's love " writes Aiyar (see page 61) , " but 
of that we shall speak when we come to Sita ", he promised. We cannot 
know of which particular incident he was thinking ; it may have been of 
this Ordeal of Sita. We are but a worm and not Aiyar, and it is not 
for worms to gaze on the sun, with blots or without. 

2 Aiyar — See page 214. 

3 "Hanuman's account of his work to Rama," writes Aiyar (sea 
page 226)," occupies a very high rank in literature for the grandeur of its 
sentiments, but we shall reserve it for the chapter on Sita as it deals 
chiefly with her." But he reserved it too long to our lasting regret, and 
it is with humility and dragging hesitation that we have ventured to 
translate but a fragment of this passage. We dare not attempt more, for, 
we shall but display our utter incompetence the more we venture further. 

* The direction in which Sita was in far off Lanka. 

sit a 343 

I saw,' he sang in ecstasy, ' I saw 
With my own eyes the Gem of Chastity 
In sea-girt Lanka in the south. Cast off 
Your fears, my Lord, and grief of old ! 

' On privilege as noble wife to you, 

On truth as worthy daughter to your sire, 

On proper conduct fitting her descent 

From Jan'ka, King of Mithila, in sooth, 

She has a crown bestowed — the Goddess mine ! 

' To gold, gold is the match ; to her, she 'lone ; 

She matches you to you alone ; and me, 

She grants as well, there's none but me to match ! 

' O bowman brave with mighty shoulders broad ! 
In roaring sea- laved Lanka on the hill 
Not maiden rare of virtues great I saw, 
But Noble Birth and Patience Boundless self 
And her called Chastity, I saw all three 
Step a dance in ecstasy ! 

' In her eyes you dwell, and in her thoughts as well ; 
Or her lips you play, and in the very depths 
Of her heart besides ; and in unhealing wound 
Which Manmath's dart of blossoms has bored deep. 
Then how could it be said that she has e'er 
Parted from you ? 

' In Lanka 'midst the ocean deep, 
Beneath sky-reaching forest dark 
Unknown to either morn or noon, 
In a bower under lofty trees, 
In the grassy hut your brother built, 
Dwells she — the stern austerity 
Of Austerity herself ! ' * 

1 V xv 55, 58-60, 62-64. 




(Please see foot-note 2 on page 93) 

The while this happened down below the Devas stood 
Aghast, alarmed, and thrown into confusion sore, 
Afraid to think how far 't would go and how would end ; 
E'en then the Lord of Eagles, Garuda, at hand, 
With quaking heart intent on sure deliverance, 
Slowly he emerged from that encircling darkness. 

Espying Ram of dauntless heart dismayed by the snake — 
His grace withdrawn from stubborn King of Lanka isle, 
And more, the world entire besides — the Garuda 
Ne'er awed before, his heart now lost and grieved ; 
And he sped on tempestuous wings which shook the Mer 
And lit the world around. The mammoths guarding close 
The compass points did cower with unwinking eyes 
Now closed in shrinking fear. 

i Students of Latin will recall to mind the famous line from Virgil's 
JEncid (Bk. VIII, 596) which runs as follows: — 

Quadrupedante putrem sonitu quotit ungula campum. 

Most of Virgil's .SSneid is in hexameter verse — a hexameter being a 
foot of one long vowel and two shorts, or a stressed syllable followed by 
two unstressed ones — corresponding to dactyl in English poetry. Here is 
the above line divided according to the metre. 

Quad-ru-pe/dan-te pu/trem son-i/tu qua-tit/un-gu-la/cam-pum 

The last foot is of two long syllables. The line gives the sound effect 
of the horses' hooves as they gallop along. The literal translation of this 
line is : 

"The hoof beats the mouldering plain with a trampling noise." 

Take another example, written entirely in anapaests : 

The Assyrian came down like a wolf on the fold 

The horses of the Assyrians can be heard galloping in these lines, 
and that is why Byron used anapaests. 

Kamban's stanzas translated here have to be read in the original to 
enjoy the sandham (metrical foot) which he has used to make the lines 
reproduce in their cadence the flight of a majestic bird. Each line ends 
with an upward lift, producing the extraordinary impression of the 
soaring of a bird in flight. We have used in this translation the iambic 
hexameter, i.e., an unstressed and stressed syllable to a foot and six feet 
to the line. Being the flight of a bird and not the gallop of a horse, the 
iambic foot has been considered quite suitable to indicate the tempo. 

We make no apology for this poor effort, for we. do not pretend to 
have any skill in the art of composing verses. 


His eyes that scan thro' million leagues beyond, 

A stream of tears they shed the while he saw below 

The holy form of Ram o'ercome by trials sore : 

And spurred thereat, the while he winged thro' space, 

The sea so cool now waves on waves it threw on high, 

The worlds their darkness shed, the wings the Vedas sang,. 

The spheres their work forsook, the serpent slack became. 

His crown, it rolled the darkness up and sunshine spread ;. 
To farthest limits of the points eight sped its rays 
Of brilliance like the moonlight bright and pierced 
The bounds as well. Such was the glory of his crown 
Whose sheen was thrice as great as fiery orb of him 
That rises o'er the ancient mountain called the Mer. 

A mountain too he seemed in the sky by lightning laced — 
With gold and gems galore and scented blossoms sweet 
Ahugging and releasing 'gain his mighty chest. 
He seemed as well a radiant sun from south astir 
And northward bound. 

With golden visor shining on his forehead broad, 
And garlands sweet with flowers culled from forest wild* 
In rhythm rolling on his chest, he soared above 
And saw the form divine and worshipped from afar, 
Assuaging grief of separation long ago. 

With both his palms like lotus bud aloft his head, 
His radiance illuming clouds above, he dwelt 
Again and 'gain on grievous lot of his for years 
When he had missed the worship at those lotus feet 
And privilege proud of perching up above his flag 
The while the seven worlds in worship stood around : 
And with intent to reach the earth he hurried on. 
Came he and worshipped Him with heart and soul again 
And 'gain. 1 

1 Book VI, Padalam xix, Verses 243-299. 


(See Chapter XI — page 187) 

Extracts from Griffith's translation of the 
Valmiki Ramayana. 

Canto IV 

Cheered by the words that Rama spoke, 
Joy in the Vanar's breast awoke, 
And, as his friendly mood he knew, 
His thoughts to King Sugriva flew : 
4 Again,' he mused, ' my high-souled lord 
Shall rule, to kingly state restored ; 
Since one so mighty comes to save, 
And freely gives the help we crave.' 

Then joyous Hanuman, the best 
Of all the Vanar kind, addressed 
These words to Rama, trained of yore 
In all the arts of speakers' lore : 
* Why do your feet this forest tread 
By silvan life inhabited, 
This awful maze of tree and thorn 
Which Pampa's flowering groves adorn ? 

He spoke : obedient to the eye 
Of Rama Lakshman made reply, 
The name and fortune to unfold 
Of Raghu's son the lofty-souled : 

Here Rama stands, his heir by birth, 
Whose name is glorious in the earth 
Sure refuge he of all oppressed, 
' Most faithful to his sire's behest. 
He, Dasaratha's eldest born 



Whom gifts above the rest adorn, 

Lord of each high imperial sign, 

The glory of his kingly line, 

Reft of his right, expelled from home, 

Came forth with me the woods to roam. 

And Sita too, his faithful dame, 

Forth with her virtuous husband came, 

Like the sweet light when day is done 

-Still cleaving to her lord the sun. 

And me his sweet perfections drew 

To follow as his servant true, 

Named Lakshman, brother of my lord 

Of grateful heart with knowledge stored. 

Most meet is he all bliss to share, 

Who makes the good of all his care. 

While, power and lordship cast away, 

In the wild wood he chose to stay, 

A giant came, — his name unknown, — 

And stole the princess left alone. 

Then Diti's son who, cursed of yore, 

The semblance of a Rakshas wore, 

To king Sugriva bade us turn 

The robber's name and home to learn, 

For he, the Vanar chief, would know 

The dwelling of our secret foe. 

Such words of hope ^pake Diti's son, 

And sought the heaven his deeds had won. 

Thou hast my tale. From first to last 

Thine ears have heard whate'er has past. 

Rama the mighty lord and I 

For refuge to Sugriva fly. 

The prince whose arm bright glory gained, 

O'er the earth as monarch reigned, 

And richest gifts to others gave, 

Is come Sugriva's help to crave ; 

Son of a king the surest friend 

Of virtue, him who loved to lend 

His succour to the suffering weak, 

Is come Sugriva's aid to seek. 

Yes, Raghu's son whose matchless hand 

Protected all this sea-girt land, 

The virtuous prince, my holy guide, 

For refuge seeks Sugriva's side. 


His favour sent on great and small 

Should ever save and prosper all. 

He now to win Sugriva's grace 

Has sought his woodland dwelling-place. 

Son of a king of glorious fame : 

Who knows not Dasaratha's name ? 

From whom all princes of the earth 

Received each honour due to worth : 

Heir of that best of earthly kings, 

Rama the -prince whose glory rings 

Through realms below and earth and skies, 

For refuge to Sugriva flie;s. 

Nor should the Vanar king refuse 

The boon for which the suppliant sues, 

But with his forest legions speed 

To save him in his utmost need.' 

Sumitra's son, his eyes bedewed 
With piteous tears, thus sighed and sued. 
Then, trained in all the arts that guide 
The speaker, Hanuman replied : 

' Yea, lords like you of wisest thought. 
Whom happy fate has hither brought, 
Who vanquish ire and rule each sense, 
Must of our lord have audience. 
Reft of his kingdom, sad, forlorn, 
Once Bali's hate now Bali's scorn, 
Defeated, severed from his spouse, 
Wandering under forest boughs, 
Child of the Sun, our lord and king 
Sugriva will his succours bring, 
And all our Vanar hosts combined 
Will trace the dame you long to find.' 

Canto V 


From Rishyamuka's rugged side 
To Malaya's hill the Vanar hied, 
And to his royal chieftain there 
Announced the coming of the pair : 


Thus spake the Vanar prince, and, stirred 
With friendly thoughts, Sugriva heard. 
The light of joy his face o'erspread, 
And thus to Raghu's son he said : 
* O Prince, in rules of duty trained, 
Caring for all with love unfeigned, 
Hanuman's tongue has truly shown 
The virtues that are thine alone. 

If thou my true ally wouldst be, 
Accept the pledge I offer thee. 
This hand in sign of friendship take, 
And bind the bond we ne'er will break.' 

Thus each to other pledged and bound 
In solemn league new transport found, 

Then King Sugriva 

To Raghu's noblest scion cried : 
' O Rama, racked with woe and fear, 
Spurned by my foes, I wander here. 
Reft of my spouse, forlorn I dwell 
Here in my forest citadel. 

He spoke, and Raghu's son .... 
Thus answered with a gentle smile : 
Bali, thy foe, who stole away 
Thy wife, this vengeful hand shall slay. 

Canto VIII 


Sugriva's heart with rapture swelled, 
And thus, by eager love impelled, 
He spoke in gracious tone, that, oft 
Checked by his joy, was low and soft 
* I, by my brother's might oppressed, 
By ceaseless woe and fear distressed, 
Mourning my consort far away, 
On Rishvamuka's mountain strav. 


For sobs and sighs he scarce could speak, 
And his sad voice came low and weak, 
As, while his eyes with tears o'erflowed, 
The burden of his soul he showed. 

' By Bali's conquering might oppressed, 
Of power and kingship dispossessed, 
Loaded with taunts of scorn and hate 
I left my realm and royal state. 
He tore away my consort : she 
Was dearer than my life to me. 

Canto X 


Thus Bali spoke in words severe ; 
And then unmoved by ruth or fear, 
Left me a single robe and sent 
His brother forth in banishment. 
He cast me out with scathe and scorn, 
And from my side my wife was torn. 
Now in great fear and ill at ease 
I roam this land with woods and seas, 
Or dwell on Rishyamuka's hill, 
And sorrow for my consort still. 

Canto XII 

They sought Kishkindha's gate and stood 
Concealed by trees in densest wood. 
Sugriva, to the fight addressed, 
More closely drew his cinctured vest, 
And raised a wild sky-piercing shout 
To call the foeman Bali out. 

Forth came impetuous Bali, stirred 
To fury by the shout he heard. 


So the great sun, ere night has ceased, 
Springs up impatient to the east. 
Then fierce and wild the conflict raged 
As hand to hand the foes engaged, 
As though in battle mid the stars 
Fought Mercury and fiery Mars. 
To highest pitch of frenzy -wrought 
With fists like thunderbolts they fought, 
While near them Rama took his stand, 
And viewed the battle, bow in hand. 
Alike they stood in form and might, 
Like heavenly Asvins paired in fight, 
Nor might the son of Raghu know- 
Where fought the friend and where the foe ; 
So, while his bow was ready bent, 
No life-destroying shaft he sent. 
Crushed down by Bali's mightier stroke 
Sugriva's force now sank and broke, 
Who, hoping naught from Rama's aid, 
To Rishyamuka fled dismayed. 
Weary, and faint, and wounded sore, 
His body bruised and dyed with gore, 
From Bali's blows, in rage and dread, 
Afar to sheltering woods he fled. 
Nor Bali farther dared pursue, 
The curbing curse too well he knew. 
' Fled from thy death ! ' the victor cried, 
And home the mighty warrior hied. 
Hanuman, Lakshman, Raghu's son 
Beheld the conquered Vanar run, 
And followed to the sheltering shade 
Where yet Sugriva stood dismayed. 
Near and more near the chieftains came, 
Then, for intolerable shame, 
Not daring yet to lift his eyes, 
Sugriva spoke with burning sighs : 
" Thy matchless strength I first beheld, 
And dared my foe, by thee impelled. 
Why hast thou tried me with deceit 
And urged me to a sure defeat ? 
Thou shouldst have said, ' I will not slay 
Thy foeman in the coming fray.' 
For had I then thy purpose known 


I had not waged the fight alone.' 

The Vanar sovereign, lofty-souled, 
In plaintive voice his sorrows told, 
Then Rama spake : ' Sugriva, list, 
All anger from thy heart dismissed, 
And I will tell the cause that stayed 
Mine arrow, and withheld the aid 
In dress, adornment, port, and height, 
In splendour, battle-shout, and might, 
No shade of difference could I see 
Between thy foe, O king, and thee 
So like was each, I stood at gaze, 
My senses lost in wildering maze, 
Nor loosened from my straining bow 
A deadly arrow at the foe, 
Lest in my doubt the shaft should send 
To sudden death our surest friend. 
O, if this hand in heedless guilt 
And rash resolve thy blood had spilt, 
Through every land, O Vanar King, 
My wild and foolish act would ring. 
Sore weight of sin on him must lie 
By whom a friend is made to die , 
And Lakshman, I, and Sita, best 
Of dames, on thy protection rest. 
On, warrior ! for the fight prepare ; 
Nor fear again thy foe to dare. 
Within one hour thine eye shall view 
My arrow strike thy f oeman through ; 
Shall see the stricken Bali lie 
Low on the earth, and gasp and die. 
But come, a badge about thee bind, 
O monarch of the Vanar king, 
That in the battle shock mine eyes 
The friend and foe may recognize. 
Come, Lakshman, let that creeper deck 
With brightest bloom Sugnva's neck, 
And be a happy token, twined 
Around the chief of lofty mmd.' 

Upon the mountain slope there grew 
A spreading creeper fair to view, 
And Lakshman plucked the bloom and round 
Sugriva's neck a garland wound. 


Graced with the flowerjr wreath he wore, 
The Vanar chief the semblance bore 
Of a dark cloud at close of day 
Engarlanded with cranes at play. 
In glorious light the Vanar glowed 
As by his comrade's side he strode, 
And still on Rama's words intent, 
His steps to great Kishkindha bent. 

Canto XIII 


Thus with Sugriva, from the side 
Of Rishyamuka, Rama hied, 
And stood before Kishkindha's gate 
Where Bali kept his regal state. 
The hero in his warrior hold 

Canto XIV 

They stood where trees of densest green 
Wove round their forms a veiling screen. 
O'er all the garden's pleasant shade 
The eyes of King Sugriva strayed, 
And, as on grass and trees he gazed, 
The fires of wrath within him blazed. 
Then like a mighty cloud on high, 
When roars the tempest through the sky, 
Girt by his friends he thundered out 
His dread sky-rending battle-shout. 

Canto XV 

That shout, which shook the land with fear, 

In thunder smote on Bali's ear, 

Where in the chamber barred and closed 


"The sovereign with his dame reposed. 
Each amorous thought was rudely stilled, 
And pride and rage his bosom filled. 
His angry eyes flashed darkly red, 
And all his native brightness fled, 
As when, by swift eclipse assailed, 
The glory of the sun has failed. 
While in his fury uncontrolled 
He ground his teeth, his eyeballs rolled, 
He seemed a lake wherein no gem 
>Of blossom decks the lotus stem. 
He heard, and with indignant pride 
Forth from the bower the Vanar hied, 
And the earth trembled at the beat 
And fury of his hastening feet. 
But Tara to her consort flew, 
Her loving arms around him threw, 
And trembling and bewildered, gave 
Wise counsel that might heal and save : 
O dear my lord, this rage control 
That like a torrent floods thy soul, 
And cast these idle thoughts away 
Like faded wreaths of yesterday. 
O tarry till the morning light, 
Then, if thou wilt, go forth and fight. 
Think not I doubt thy valour, no ; 
Or deem thee weaker than thy foe, 
Yet for a while would have thee stay 
Nor see thee tempt the fight to-day. 
Now list, my loving lord, and learn 
The reason why I bid thee turn. 
Thy foeman came in wrath and pride, 
And thee to deadly fight defied. 
Thou wentst out : he fought, and fled 
Sore wounded and discomfited. 
But yet, untaught by late defeat, 
He comes his conquering foe to meet, 
And calls thee forth with cry and shout : 
Hence spring, my lord, this fear and doubt. 
A heart so bold that will not yield, 
But yearns to tempt the desperate field, 
Such loud defiance, fiercely pressed, 


On no uncertain hope can rest. 

So lately by thine arm o'erthrown, 

He comes not back, I wean, alone. 

Some mightier comrade guards his side,. 

And spurs him to this burst of pride. 

For nature made the Vanar wise : 

On arms of might his hope relies ; 

And never will Sugriva seek 

A friend whose power to save is weak. 

Now listen while my lips unfold 

The wondrous tale my Angad told. 

Our child the distant forest sought, 

And, learnt from spies, the tidings broughl 

Two sons of Dasaratha, sprung 

From old Ikshvaku, brave and young, 

Renowned in arms, in war untamed — 

Rama and Lakshman are they named — 

Have with thy foe Sugriva made 

A league of love and friendly aid. 

Now Rama, famed for exploit high, 

Is bound thy brother's firm ally. 

Like fires of doom that ruin all 

He makes each foe before him fall. 

He is the suppliant's sure defence, 

The tree that shelters innocence. 

The poor and wretched seek his feet : 

In him the noblest glories meet. 

With skill and knowledge vast and deep 

His sire's commands he loved to keep ; 

With princely gifts and graces stored 

As metals deck the mountains' Lord. 

Thou canst not, O my hero, stand 

Before the might of Rama's hand ; 

For none may match his power, or dare 

With him in deeds of war compare. 

Hear, I entreat, the words I say, 

Nor lightly turn my rede away. 

O let fraternal discord cease, 

And link you in the bonds of peace. 

Let consecrating rites ordain 

Sugriva partner of thy reign. 

Let war and thoughts of conflict end, 


And be thou his and Rama's friend. 
Each soft approach of love begin, 
And to thy soul thy brother win ; 
For whether here or there he be, 
Thy brother still, dear lord, is he. 
Though far and wide these eyes I strain 
A friend like him I seek in vain. 
Let gentle words his heart incline, 
And gifts and honours make him thine, 
Till, foes no more, in love allied, 
You stand as brothers side by side. 
Thou in high rank wast wont to hold 
Sugriva, formed in massive mould ; 
Then come, thy brother's love regain, 
For other aids are weak and vain. 
If thou would please my soul, and still 
Preserve me from all fear and ill, 
I pray thee by thy love be wise 
And do the thing which I advise. 
Assuage thy brute wrath, and shun 
The mightier arms of Raghu's son ; 
For Indra's peer in might is he, 
A foe too strong, my lord, for thee.' 

Canto XVI 


Thus Tara with the starry eyes 
Her counsel gave with burning sighs, 
But Bali, by her prayers unmoved, 
Spurned her advice, and thus reproved : 
' How may this insult, scathe, and scorn 
By me, dear love, be tamely borne ? 
My brother, yea my foe, comes nigh 
And dares me forth with shout and cry. 
Learn, trembler ! that the valiant, they 
Who yield no step in battle fray, 
Will die a thousand deaths but ne'er 
An unavenged dishonour bear. 
Nor, O my love, be thou dismayed 
Thou Rama lend Sugriva aid ; 
For one so pure and duteous, one 


Who loves the right, all sin will shun. 
Release me from thy soft embrace, 
And with thy dames thy steps retrace : 
Enough already, O mine own, 
Of love and sweet devotion shown. 
Drive all thy fear and doubt away ; 
I seek Sugriva in the fray 
His boisterous rage and pride to still, 
And tame the foe I would not kill. 
My fury, armed with brandished trees, 
Shall strike Sugriva to his knees : 
Nor shall the humbled foe withstand 
The blows of my avenging hand, 
When, nerved by rage and pride, I beat 
The traitor down beneath my feet. 
Thou love, hast lent thine own sweet aid, 
And all thy tender care displayed ; 
Now by my life, by these who yearn 
To serve thee well, I pray thee turn. 
But for a while, dear dame, I go, 
To come triumphant o'er the foe.' 

Thus Bali spake in gentlest tone : 
Soft arms about his neck were thrown ; 
Then round her lord the lady went 
With sad steps slow and reverent. 
She stood in solemn guise to bless 
With prayers for safety and success : 
Then with her train her chamber sought 
By grief and racking fear distraught. 

With serpent's pantings fierce and fast 
King Bali, from the city passed. 
His glance, as each quick breath he drew, 
Around to find the foe he threw, 
And saw where fierce Sugriva showed 
His form with golden hues that glowed, 
And, as a fire resplendent, stayed 
To meet his foe in arms arrayed. 
When Bali, long-armed chieftain, found 
Sugriva stationed on the ground, 
Impelled by warlike rage he braced 
His warrior garb about his waist, 
And with his mighty arm raised high 


Rushed at Sugriva with a cry. 
But when Sugriva, fierce and bold, 
Saw Bali with his chain of gold, 
His arm he heaved, his hand he closed, 
And face to face his foe opposed. 
To him whose eyes with fury shone, 
In charge impetuous rushing on, 
Skilled in each warlike art and plan, 
Bali with hasty words began : 
' My ponderous hand, to fight addressed, 
With fingers clenched and firm compressed, 
Shall on thy death-doomed brow descend 
And, crashing down, thy life shall end.' 
He spoke ; and, wild with rage and pride, 
The fierce Sugriva thus replied : 
' Thus let my arm begin the strife 
And from thy body crush the life.' 
Then Bali, wounded and enraged, 
With furious blows the battle waged. 
Sugriva seemed, with blood-streams dyed,. 
A hill with fountains in his side. 
But with his native force unspent 
A Sal tree from the earth he rent r 
And like the bolt of Indra smote 
On Bali's head and chest and throat. 
Bruised by the blows he could not shield,. 
Half vanquished Bali sank and reeled, 
As sinks a vessel with her freight 
Borne down by overwhelming weight. 
Swift as Suparna's swiftest flight 
In awful strength they rushed to fight : 
So might the sun and moon on high 
Encountering battle in the sky. 
Fierce and more fierce, as fought the foes, 
The furious rage of combat rose. 
They warred with feet and arms and knees,. 
With nails and stones and boughs and trees,. 
And blows descending fast as rain 
Dyed each dark form with crimson stain, 
While like two thunder-clouds they met ' 

With battle-cry and shout and threat. 
Then Rama saw Sugriva quail, 


Marked his worn strength grow weak and fail. 

Saw how he turned' his wistful eye 

To every quarter of the sky. 

His friend's defeat he could not brook, 

Bent on his shaft an eager look, 

Then burned to slay the conquering foe, 

And laid his arrow on the bow. 

As to an orb the bow he drew* 

Forth from the string the arrow flew 

Like Fate's tremendous discus hurled 

By Yama forth to end the world. 

So loud the din that every bird 

The bow-string's clang with terror heard, 

And wildly fled the affrighted deer 

As though the day of doom were near. 

So deadly as the serpent's fang, 

Forth from the string the arrow sprang. 

Like the red lightning's flash and flame 

It flew unerring to its aim, 

And, hissing murder through the air, 

Pierced Bali's breast, and quivered there. 

Struck by the shaft that flew so well 

The mighty Vanar reeled and fell, 

As earthward Indra's flag they pull 

When Asvini's fair moon is full. 

Canto XVII 


Like some proud tree before the blast 
Brave Bali to the ground was cast, 
Where prostrate in the dust he rolled 
Clad in the sheen of glistening gold, 
As when uptorn the standard lies 
Of the great God who rules the skies. 

As fell the hero, crushed in fight, 

There beamed afar a triple light 

From limbs, from chain, from shaft that drank 

His life-blood as the warrior sank. 

The never-failing shaft, impelled 


By the great bow which Rama held, 
Brought bliss supreme, and lit the way 
To Brahma's worlds which ne'er decay. 
Rama and Lakshman nearer drew 
The mighty fallen foe to view, 

The wounded Bali, when he saw 
Jlama and Lakshman nearer draw, 
Keen words to Raghu's son, impressed 
With justice's holy stamp addressed : 
' What fame, from one thou hast not slain 
In front of battle, canst thou gain, 
Whose secret hand has laid me low 
When madly fighting with my foe ? 
From every tongue thy glory rings, 
A scion of a line of kings, 
True to thy vows, of noblest race, 
With every gentle gift and grace : 
Whose tender heart for woe can feel, 
And joy in every creature's weal : 
Whose breast with high ambition swells, 
Knows duty's claim and ne'er rebels. 
They praise thy valour, patience, ruth, 
Thy firmness, self-restraint, and truth : 
Thy hand prepared for sin's control, 
All virtues of a princely soul. 
I thought of all these gifts of thine, 
And glories of an ancient line, 
I set my Tara's tears at naught, 
I met Sugriva and we fought. 

Rama, till this fatal morn 

1 held that thou wouldst surely scorn 
To strike me as I fought my foe 
And thought not of a stranger's blow. 
But now thine evil heart is shown, 

A yawning well with grass o'ergrown. 

Thou wearest virtue's badge, but guile 

And meanest sin thy soul defile. 

I took thee not for treacherous fire, 

A sinner clad in saint's attire ; 

Nor deemed thou idly wouldst profess 

The show and garb of righteousness. 


In fenced town, in open land, 
Ne'er hast thou suffered at this hand. 
Nor canst of proud contempt complain : 
Then wherefore is the guiltless slain ? 
My harmless life in woods I lead, 
On forest fruits and roots I feed. 
My foeraan in the field I sought, 
And ne'er with thee, O Rama, fought. 
Upon thy limbs, O King, I see 
The raiment of a devotee ; 
And how can one like thee, who springs 
From a proud line of ancient kings, 
Beneath fair virtue's mask, disgrace 
His lineage by a deed so base ? 
From Raghu is thy long descent, 
For duteous deeds pre-eminent : 
Why, sinner clad in saintly dress, 
Roamest thou through the wilderness ? 
Truth, valour, justice free from spot, 
The hand that gives and grudges not, 
The might that strikes the sinner down, 
These bring a prince his best renown. 
Here in the woods, O King, we live 
On roots and fruit which branches give. 
Thus nature framed our harmless race : 
Thou art a man supreme in place. 
Silver and gold and land provoke 
The fierce attack, the robber's stroke. 
Canst thou desire this wild retreat, 
The berries and the fruit we eat ? 
'Tis not for mighty kings to tread 
The flowery path, by pleasure led. 
Theirs be the arm that crushes sin, 
Theirs the soft grace to woo and win : 
The steadfast will that guides the state, 
Wise favour to the good and great ; 
And for all time are kings renowned 
Who blend these arts and ne'er confound. 
But thou art weak and swift to ire, 
Unstable, slave of each desire. 
Thou tramplest duty in the dust, 
And in thy bow is all thy trust. 


Thou carest naught for noble gain, 
And treatest virtue with disdain, 
While every sense its captive draws 
To follow pleasure's changing laws. 
I -wronged thee not in word or deed, 
But h. thy deadly dart I bleed. 
What wilt thou, mid the virtuous, say 
To purge thy lasting stain away ? 
All these, O King, must sink to hell, 
The regicide, the infidel, 
He who in blood and slaughter joys, 
A Brahman or a cow destroys, 
Untimely weds in law's despite 
Scorning an elder brother's right, 
Who dares his Teacher's bed ascend. 
The miser, spy, and treacherous friend. 
These impious wretches, one and all, 
Must to the hell of sinners fall. 
My skin the holy may not wear, 
Useless to thee my bones and hair ; 
Nor may my Slaughtered body be 
The food of devotees like thee. 
These five-toed things a man may slay 
And feed upon the fallen prey ; 
The mailed rhinoceros may die, 
And, with the hare, his food supply 
Iguanas he may kill and eat, 
With porcupine and tortoise meat. 
But all the wise account it sin 
To touch my bones and hair and skin. 
My flesh they may not eat ; and I 
A useless prey, O Rama, die. 
In vain my Tara reasoned well, 
On dull deaf ears her counsel fell. 
I scorned her words though sooth and sweet, 
And hither rushed my fate to meet. 
Ah for the land thou rulest ! She 
Finds no protection, lord, from thee, 
Neglected like some noble dame 
By a vile husband dead to shame. 
Mean-hearted coward, false and vile, 
Whose cruel soul delights in' guile> 


Could Dasaratha, noblest king, 

Beget so mean and base a thing ? 

Alas ! an elephant, in form 

Of Rama, in a maddening storm 

Of passion casting to the ground 

The girth of law that clipped him round, 

Too wildly passionate to feel 

The prick of duty's guiding steel, 

Has charged me unawares, and dead 

I fall beneath his murderous tread. 

How, stained with this my base defeat, 

How wilt thou dare, where good men meet, 

To speak, when every tongue will blame 

With keen reproach this deed of shame ? 

Such hero strength and valour, shown 

Upon the innocent alone, 

Thou hast not proved in manly strife 

On him who robbed thee of thy wife. 

Hadst thou but fought in open field 

And met me boldly unconcealed, 

This day had been thy fate to fall, 

Slain by this hand, to Yama's hall. 

In vain I strove, and struck by thee 

Fell by a hand I could not see. 

Thus bites a snake, for sins of yore, , 

A sleeping roan who wakes no more. 

Sugriva's. foeman thou hast killed, 

And thus his heart's desire fulfilled : 

But Rama, hadst thou sought me first, 

And told the hope thy soul has nursed, 

That very day had I restored 

The Maithil lady to her lord ; 

And, binding Ravan with a chain, 

Had laid him at thy feet unslain. 

Yea, were she sunk in deepest hell, 

Or whelmed beneath the ocean's swell, 

I would have followed on her track 

And brought the rescued lady back, 

As Hayagriva once set free 

.From hell the white Asvatari. 

That when my spirit wings its flight 

Sugriva reign, is just and right. , 


.But most unjust, O King, that, I, 
Slain by thy treacherous hand, should lie. 
Be still, my heart : this earthly state 
Is darkly ruled by sovereign Fate. 
The realm is lost and won : defy 
Thy questioners with apt reply.' 

Canto XVIII 


He ceased : and Rama's heart was stirred 

At every keen reproach he heard. 

There Bali lay, a dim dark sun, 

His course of light and glory run : 

Or like the bed of Ocean dried 

Of his broad floods from side to side, 

Or helpless, as the dying fire, 

Hushed his last words of righteous ire. 

Then Rama, with his spirit moved, 

The Vanar king in turn reproved : 

' Why dost thou, Bali, thus revile, 

And castest not a glance the while 

On claims of duty, love, and gain, 

And customs o'er the world that reign ? 

Why dost thou blame me, rash and blind, 

Fickle as all thy Vanar kind, 

Slighting each rule of ancient days 

Which all the good and prudent praise ? 

This land, each hill and woody chase, 

Belongs to old Ikshvaku's race : 

With bird and beast and man, the whole 

Is ours to cherish and control. 

Now Bharat, prompt at duty's call, 

Wise, just, and true, is lord of all. 

Each claim of law, love, gain, he knows. 

And wrath and favour duly shows. 

A king from truth who never bends, 

And grace with vigour wisely blends ; 

With valour worthy of his race, 

He knows the claims of time and place. 

Now we and other kings of might, ' ' 

By his ensamplc taught arighft, > 


The lands of every region tread 

That justice may increase and spread. 

While royal Bharat, wise and just, 

Rules the broad earth, his glorious trust, 

Who shall attempt, while he is lord, 

A deed by Justice held abhorred ? 

We now, as Bharat has decreed, 

Let justice guide our every deed, 

And toil each sinner to repress 

Who scorns the way of righteousness. 

Thou from that path hast turned aside, 

And virtue's holy law defied, 

Left the fair path which kings should tread,. 

And followed pleasure's voice instead. 

The man who cleaves to duty's law 

Regards these three with filial awe — 

The sire, the elder brother, third 

Him from whose lips his lore he heard. 

Thus too, for duty's sake, the wise 

Regard with fond paternal eyes 

The well-loved younger brother, one 

Their lore has ripened, and a son. 

Fine are the laws which guide the good 

Abstruse, and hardly understood ; 

Only the soul, enthroned within 

The breast of each, knows right from sin» 

But thou art wild and weak of soul, 

And spurnest, like thy race, control ; 

The true and right thou canst not find, 

The blind consulting with the blind. 

Incline thine ear and I will teach 

The cause that prompts my present speech. 

This tempest of thy soul assuage, 

Nor blame me in thine idle rage. 

On this great sin thy thoughts bestow, 

The sin for which I lay thee low. 

Thou, Bali, in thy brother's life 

Hast robbed him of his wedded wife, 

And keepest, scorning ancient right, 

His Ruma for thine own delight. 

Thy son's own wife should scarcely be 

More sacred in thine eyes than she. 


•Ail duty thou hast scorned, and hence 
Comes punishment for dire* offence. 
For those who blindly do amiss 
There is, I ween, no way but this : 
To check the rash who dare to stray 
From customs which the good obey. 
I may not, sprung of Kshatriya line, 
Forgive this heinous sin of thine : 
The laws for those who sin like thee 
The penalty of death decree. 
Now Bhar'at rules with sovereign sway, 
And we his royal word obey. 
There was no hope of pardon, none, 
For the vile deed that thou hast done. 
That wisest monarch dooms to die 
The •wretch whose crimes the law defy ; 
And we, chastising those who err, 
His righteous doom administer. 
My soul accounts Sugriva dear 
E'en as my brother Lakshman here. 
He brings me blessing, and I swore 
His wife and kingdom to restore : 
A bond in solemn honour bound 
When Vanar chieftains stood around. 
And can a king like me forsake 
His friend, and plighted promise break ? 
Reflect, O Vanar, on the cause, 
The sanction of eternal laws. 
And, justly smitten down, confess 
Thou diest for thy wickedness. 
By honour was I bound to lend 
Assistance to a faithful friend ; 
And thou hast met a righteous fate 
Thy former sins to expiate. 
And thus wilt thou some merit win 
And make atonement for thy sin. 
For hear me, Vanar King, rehearse 
What Manu spake in ancient verse — 
This holy law, which all accept 
Who honour duty, have I kept : 
' Pure grow the sinners kings chastise, 
And like the virtuous, gain the skies ; 


By pain or full atonement freed, 

They reap the fruit of righteous deed, 

While kings who punish not incur 

The penalties of those who err.' 

Mandhata, once a noble king, 

Light of the line from which I spring, 

Punished with death a devotee 

When he had stooped to sin like thee ;. 

And many a king in ancient time 

Has punished frantic sinners' crime, 

And, when their impious blood was spilt, 

Has washed away the stain of guilt. 

Cease, Bali, cease : no more complain : 

Reproaches and laments are vain, 

For thou art justly punished : we 

Obey our king and are not free. 

Once more, O Bali, lend thine ear. 

Another weightiest plea to hear, 

For this, when heard and pondered well, 

Will all complaint and rage dispel. 

My soul will ne'er this deed repent, 

Nor was my shaft in anger sent. 

We taken the silvan tribes beset 

With snare and trap and gin and net, 

And many a heedless deer we smite 

From thickest shade, concealed from sight. 

Wild for the slaughter of the game, 

At stately stags our shafts we aim. 

We strike them bounding scared away, 

We strike them as they stand at bay, 

When careless in the shade they lie, 

Or scan the plain with watchful eye. 

They turn away their heads : we aim, 

And none the eager hunter blame. 

Each royal saint, well trained in law 

Of duty loves his bow to draw 

And strike the quarry, e'en as thou 

Hast fallen by mine arrow now, 

Fighting with him or unaware — 

A Vanar thou — I little care. 

But, yet, O best of Vanars, knovr 

That kingi who rule the earth bestow 


Fruit of pure life and virtuous deed, 
And lofty duty's hard-won meed. 
Harm not thy lord the king : abstain 
From act and word that cause him pain. 
For kings are children of the skies 
Who walk this earth in men's disguise. 
But thou, in duty's claims untaught, 
Thy breast with blinding passion fraught, 
Assailest me who still have clung 
To duty, with thy bitter tongue.' 

He ceased : and Bali sore distressed 
The sovereign claims of law confessed, 
And freed, o'erwhelmed with woe and shame, 
The lord of Raghu's race from blame. 
Then, reverent palm to palm applied, 
To Rama thus the Vanar cried : 
' True, best of men, is every word 
That from thy lips these ears have heard. 
It ill beseems a wretch like me 
To bandy empty words with thee. 
Forgive the angry taunts that broke 
From my wild bosom as I spoke, 
And lay not to my charge, O King, 
My mad reproaches' idle sting. 
Thou, in the truth by trial trained, 
Best knowledge of the right hast gained ; 
And layest, just and pure within, 
The haeetest penalty on sin, 
Through every bond of law I burst, 
The boldest sinner and the worst. 
O let thy right-instructing speech 
Console my heart and wisely teach.' 

Like some sad elephant who stands 
Fast sinking in the treacherous sands, 
Thus Bali raised despairing eyes ; 
Then spake again with sobs and sighs : 

' Not for myself, O king, I grieve, 
For Tara or the friends I leave, 
As for sweet Angad, my dear son, 
My noble, only little one. 
For, nursed in luxury and bliss 
His father he- will mourn J and miss/ ' 


And like a stream whose fount is dry 

Will waste away and sink and die, — ' 

My own dear child, my only boy, 

His mother Tara's hope and joy. 

Spare him, O son of Raghu, spare 

The child entrusted to thy care. 

My Angad and Sugriva treat 

E'en as thy heart considers meet, 

For thou, O chief of men, art strong 

To guard the right and punish wrong. 

O, if thou -wilt thine ear incline 

To hear these dying words of mine, 

He and Sugriva will to thee 

As Bharat and as Lakshman be. 

Let not my Tara left forlorn, 

Weep for Sugriva's wrathful scorn ; 

Nor let him, for her lord's offence, 

Condemn her faithful innocence. 

And well and wisely may he reign 

If thy dear grace his power sustain : 

If, following thee his friend and guide, 

He turn not from thy hest aside : 

Thus may he reign with glory, nay 

Thus to the skies will win his way. 

Though stayed by Tara's fond recall, 

By thy dear, hand I longed to fall. 

Against my brother rushed and fought, 

And gained the death I long have sought.' 

Canto XIX 


But Tara in the Vanar's hall 
Heard tidings of her husband's fall ; 
Heard that a shaft from Rama's bow 
Had laid the royal Bali low. 
Her darling Angad by her side, 
Distracted from her home she hied. 

i She hastened forth, her bosom rent 

l With anguish, weeping as she went, 
) And striking, mastered by her woes, 


Her head and breast with frantic blows. 

She hurried to the field and found 

Her .husband prostrate on the ground, 

Who quelled the hostile Vanar's might, 

Whose back was never turned in flight : 

Whose arm a massy rock could throw 

As Indra hurls his bolts below : 

Fierce as the rushing tempest, loud 

As thunder from a labouring cloud : 

Whene'er he roared his voice of fear 

Struck terror on the boldest ear : 

Now slain, as, hungry for the prey, 

A tiger might a lion slay : 

Or when, his serpent foe to seek, 

Suparna with his furious beak 

Tears up a sacred hillock, long 

The reverence of a village throng, 

Its altar with their offerings spread, 

And the gay flag that waved o'erhead. 

She looked and saw the victor stand 

Resting upon his bow his hand ; 

And fierce Sugriva she descried, 

And Lakshman by his brother's side. 

She passed them by, nor stayed to view, 

Swift to her husband's side she flew ; 

Then as she looked, her strength gave way, 

And in the dust she fell and lay. 

Then, as if startled ere the close 

Of slumber, from the earth she rose. 

Upon her dying husband, round 

Whose soul the coils of Death were wound, 

Her eyes in agony she bent 

And called him with a shrill lament. 

Sugriva, when he heard her cries, 

And saw the queen with weeping eyes, 

And youthful Angad standing there, 

His load of grief could hardly bear. 

Canto XX 
Again she bent her to the ground, 
'Her arms about her husband wound, 


Sobbed on his breast, and sick and faint 
With anguish poured her wild complaint : 

Again the hapless Tara wept 
As to her husband's side she crept, 
And wild with sorrow and dismay 
Sat on the ground where Bali lay. 

Canto XXII 


There breathing still with slow faint sighs 

Lay Bali on the ground : his eyes, 

Damp with the tears of death, he raised, 

On conquering Sugriva gazed, 

And then in clearest speech expressed 

The tender feelings of his breast : 

' Not to my charge, Sugriva, lay 

Thine injuries avenged to-day ; 

But rather blame resistless Fate 

That urged me on infuriate. 

Fate ne'er agreed our lives to bless 

With simultaneous happiness : 

To dwell like brothers side by side 

In tender love was still denied. 

The Vanars' realm is thine to-day : 

Begin, O King, thy rightful sway ; 

For I must go at Yama's call 

To sojourn in his gloomy hall ; 

Must part and leave this very hour 

My life, my realm, my kingly power,. 

And go instead of these to gain 

Bright glory free from spot and stain. 

Now at thy hands one boon I seek 

With the last words my lips shall speak, 

And, though it be no easy thing, 

Perform the task I give thee, King. 

This son of mine, no foolish boy, 

Worthy of bliss and nursed in joy, — 

See, prostrate on the ground he lies, 

The hot tears welling from his eyes — > 

The child I love so well, more sweet 


Than life itself, for woe unmeet, — 

To him be kindly favour shown : 

O guard and keep him as thine own. 

Retain him ever by thy side, 

His father, helper, friend, and guide. 

From fear and woe his young life save, 

And give him all his father gave. 

Then Tara's son in time shall be 

Brave, resolute and famed like thee, 

And march before thee to the fight 

Where stricken fiends shall own his might. 

While yet a tender stripling, fame 

Shall bruit abroad his warrior name, 

And brightly shall his glory shine 

For exploits worthy of his line. 

Child of Sushen, my Tara well 

Obscurest lore can read and tell ; 

And, trained in wondrous art, divines 

Each mystery of boding signs. 

Her solemn warning ne'er despise, 

Do boldly what her lips advise ; 

For things to come her eye can see, 

And with her words events agree. 

And for the son of Raghu's sake 

The toil and danger undertake : 

For breach of faith were grievous wrong, 

Nor wouldst thou be unpunished long. 

Now, brother, take this chain of gold, 

Gift of celestial hands of old. 

Or when I die its charm will flee. 

And all its might be lost with me.' 

The loving speech Sugriva heard, 
And all his heart with woe was stirred. 
Remorse and gentle pity stole 
Each thought of triumph from his soul : 
Thus fades the light when Rahu mars 
The glory of the Lord of Stars. 
All angry thoughts were stayed and stilled, 
And kindly love his bosom filled. 
His brother's word the chief obeyed 
And took the chain as Bali prayed. 
On little Angad standing nigh 


The dying hero fixed his eye, 

And, ready from this world to part, 

Spoke the fond utterance of his heart : 

' Let time and place thy thoughts employ : 
In woe be strong, be meek in joy. 
Accept both pain and pleasure, still 
Obedient to Sugriva's will. 
Thou hast, my darling, from the first 
With tender care been softly nursed ; 
But harder days, if thou wouldst 'win 
Sugriva's love, must now begin. 
To those who hate him ne'er incline, 
Nor count his foe a friend of thine. 
In all thy thoughts his welfare seek, 
Obedient, lowly, faithful, meek. 
Let no rash suit his bosom pain, 
Nor yet from due requests abstain. 
Kach is a grievous fault, between 
The two is found the happy mean.' 

Then Bali ceased : his eyeballs rolled 
In stress of anguish uncontrolled. 
His massive teeth were bared to view, 
And from the frame the spirit flew. 


An Index is furnished below of those stanzas in the 
Kamba Ramayanam translated by Aiyar, in order 
of Kanddm and Padalam according to the annotated 
edition of Sri V. M. Gopalakrishnamachariar, which 
it is hoped may be found useful. A similar index for 
the chapter on Sita follows. The reference given here 
is to the page on which the first stanza in the set 
begins. The foot-note reference might be found in 
many cases on a subsequent page. 

— Publishers. 

Padalam Stanza Page Padalam Stavza Page , Padalam Stanza 

I UdeU &T65311— ID 

82 .62 

X tfjfi&ti *TL$ 

1 6 

xi (§ia)(if<3>i) $ar£i,i 


xii *irjifs 


xxii 1111*1 tu> 








45, 47 





1 j}mm aprnfiCtiu 38, 70 ««-J» A*®* 



77. 78 
83, 84 

iii a»*G*u?t -jiji) 

26-29, 32,33 
33, 34, 44 
107, 108, 110 

iv jtii $w(<ij 


117, 121, T22 


137, 139, 140 
149, 157. J59 
224. 226-228 

V ffl)>9D milfjjl 


ix uaraPui«»i- 


55. 56 
58, 60-62 
70. 71 


35 | 72 .. 69, 

286 292' 
73, 74. 76-79, 

81, 82, 90, 93 293 

287 96. 98-103, 

288 105-7, 113, 

289 115, 117 .. 294 
9 118, 120 .. 295 

132, 136, 138 . . 296 

71 X ^JpiOjiii 

12-20 . . 296 

73 XI ($« 

48 14-17, 19, 22 . . 297 

7? 27 .. 298 

74 29. 30, 33 . . 299 
11 35, 36, 40 .. 300 

42, 43, 65, 68, 
69, 70, , ,.. . 301 

51 xii j6($ojif T^iKS 

30, 34, 36, 
4 n , 38-40, 42, 

43 ..76 

44, 45 '• . . 52 

51, 53, 96 ., 302 

289 97. 98, • T " 

290 101-103 .. 303 

291 114-117 .. 304 

292 129, 131, 132 . . 305 

jirtSn «rtit_uu<L<P'ar«rar. 


— A 


Padalam Stanza Page 

Padalam^ Stanza Page Padalam Stanza 


III Qltesflu 

v aincfi aiuD** 

201, 202, 205 
219, 220 







iii •SMJkfiiu 





17, 19, 21 


34, 35 


36-38, 40-43, 

,„ iii sitl* 

v gjiiuanras 

31, 32, 34-37, 



64, 65 
67-69, 71, 72 . . 






. 49 



74. 76-84, 


. 51 

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33, 65, 67-73 . 
75, 76 

. 213 
. 214 

24-29, 36, 45, 
46. 49-51 . . 


104, 105, 


IV $ja!$M 

58, 60, 61 




24, 26-29, 

67, 68-71, 73, 

117, 119-130 . 



. 247 



132-134, 136, 

40, 41, 50, 51, 



137, 146-149 



. 15 




. 187 

65, 66, 68, 69, 




. 16 



viii &il£l)i>fi»> 




. 63 

V f_'JI,i«Tll1} 

237, 238 


11-13, 15, 17 

X JblfL-OiLL 

19, 20 

. 215 

"viii ffi_irii| ajiiir 


60, 62, 63, 


. 216 

20-22, 26-34 . 

. 243 


. 78 

27, 28, 32, 34 



. 244 

35, 37 

. 213 


. 245 

xiii *iiu:i£! 


. . 219 


. 256 


. 198 

71, 72 

. . 19 


. 249 



. . 61 


. 61 

xiv itftsibjfi? 


. . 219 

201, 203-206 . 

. 63 

i 9, 10, 12, 14, 

99-104, 109, 
110, 112 

. . 220 

ix .9|ClUT(^JB 

| 15, 19 
1 21-25 

. 200 
. 201 


.. 221 

63, 67, 68, 71 


V *ffijSffftFr6N5T 


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41, 72, 73 

. 204 

xii ijt* 

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. 205 


.. 103 


. 208 


.. 102 

12-15, 20, 36, 


.. 83 


.. 101 

37, 40 

. 196 



.. 103 


. 197 


. 207 


.. 102 


. 170 

199, 200 

. 208 


.. 222 



Podolam Stanza 'Page Padalant Stanzct Page Padalam Stanza Page 

56, 57, 59 .. 223 
61, 62, 64, 65 224 
70, 74, 75, *79, 

80 .. 199 

113, 116 . . 125 

8, 9 . . 225 

10 ..-226 

82, 83 . . 61 

VI 0|££ anwi_ii> 
ii Stjraitjjrir m^^j 

12-14 .. 249 

53 .137 

58, 59 . . 102 
60, 61 . . 103 
66, 67, 70, 

72-75 ..126 
90, 91, 95, 96, 
99, 101, 102, 
106, 108, 109 127 
113, 116, 117 .. 123 

iii Sijssufiiusjr oho} 

24-33 . . 155 

35, 37 . . 156 

40, 42, 44-46 . . 157 

47-56 . . 158 

59, 62, 64, 69, 

70, 72, 74-78 159 
80, 86, 93 . . 161 
118-130 . . 162 
132, 133, 136, 

139, 142, 143 164 I 
144, 145, 146 . . 165 

12 .. 133 

Xill WU&frM &T$I 

9, 13 
16-18, 43 

.. 257 
.. 250 

xiv ip0,j) Cut] 




3, 4, 6-9 

108, 109 
125-127, 129 




91, 92 r 95, 96, 

133, 139 
155, 161, 

167, 169 
174, 175, 

181-183, 185 
203, 204 
221, 232 







77-83, 86 . . 251 

xvii ^sTiuir ai«D,s 

. 78. 79 . . 80 

180, 188-191 . . 81 

197-199 .. 82 

. 269-272 .. 83 

XV111 jbll* lllf 
7, 8 
21, 28 
76, 77, 79 
95, 105, 106 
120, 167 
180, 188-190 

233, 237-241 

17, 23, 25, 
29, 30 

79, 83-89 









Appendix I 







. 144 

191, 192 

. 143 

193, 194, 200 



. 147 



228, 234-236 


262, 263 

. 227 


. 147 

286, 328-331 


341, 342 

. 149 

354, 360 


xix ua>L> js&caii 



xxi iSljitfjijflf 

39-43 . . 94 

61, 62 . . 95 

63, 66, 67 . . 96 
206-210, 212, 

214, 217, 218 98 

XXlii UJi.b.^I U&C 

3-5 . . 227 

20 .228 

111-114 .. 229 

xxv mriur Iss^r. 

13, 14, 16-18 104 
31, 34, 35, 

38-41 .. 105 

45-50, 51-53 . . 106 
58. 60 .107 

60, 65-71 . . 108 

78-79 . . 50 

378 K A M B A 



Padalam Stanza 


Padalam Stanza Page 

Padalam ■ Stanza 


xxvi £@,uiu%OiLiirs 

xxviii iahrirsusKHsSr 

xxxvi §t)immm 


.. lie 




.. in 

7, 10, 11 . . 253 

35, 50 

. 271 


.. 112 

16, 17, 19, 22, 

*80, 90, 92, 97 


98, 99 

.. 113 

26-32 . . 254 

105, 106, 115 . 

. 27* 


. . 114 

35-39 .. 255 

135, 136, 152 



. . 115 

47 . . 23 

175, 178 



. 116 

49, 53 . . 24 


. 173 

177, 178 

. 117 

xxxi GotQafrft 

198, 199 


xxvii &!>#![$£& 

28-32 . . 135 



SUSS) ,4 

46 . . 229 




. 118 

48, 49 .. 136 


. 119 

xxxvii ifd 

13, 15 

. 120 

xxxiv {ajTOioNiiir 




. 121 


214, 215 


30, 31, 33 

. 122 

20, 23 . . 268 

216, 229-234 . . 


46, 51 

. 123 

26 .. 269 

236-238, 240 . . 



. 124 

247, 251 



. 54 

xxxv Opitssr G^Ggjgi 


. 55 

2 .269 

xxxix aT',i)L-G*,f(5^ i s 


. 134 

17 . .270 




Padalam Stanza 


Padalam Stanza Page 

Padalam Stanza 



III ^,!T6S5plLI 





.. 332 

x iB#&0* aurilll 


• « 

17-19, 26, 27 



Vlll *LITIl|tt|IUiT JE£J» 

29, 30, 32 

. . 333 

26, 32 


4, 13 . . ills 


. . 334 

35, 36 


56, 57 . . 320 

74, 76-79, 81 

37 % 


58, 59, 63, 67 321 


.. 335 



68-70, 72 . . 322 

• • • 


$(5011*. Q$fT(!t$ 



*IBSlr SlT655rL_LO 

55, 58-60, 


. 313 



3-5, 7, 9, 11 .. 327 


. . 342 

xxi &if.ttm 



12-14 .. 329 
15 329, 337 
16, 17, 19, 20 329 

VI il|;5j5 arr6Ksri_ii 
xxxvi %iraiswriar 

II 3\G\unp$ 


23, 24, 26, 28 330 





220, 225 

. 319 

23 -. 323 

xxxvii iElJ 

25, 38-42, 45, 

V «B<E90UlirL(5 

46, 49-51, 

34, 36, 59 

. 333 



57-59 .. 324 


70, 71, 73-77 

. 339 
. 340 

xii j£l(ijaiif 3jL(5 




. 341 



64-67 .. 331 


. 337 


This book will be available at — 

Orders and payments to be sent to 


Asst. Director, 

Civil Aviation Department, 

Talkatora Road, 



Connaught Circus, 

3. Messrs. BHAWNANI & SONS, 

Book Sellers & News Agents, 
Connaught Place, 


1/140, Broadway, 

5. Messrs. HIGGINBOTHAMS & CO., 
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and their bookstalls on the S.I. Rly. system, 

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(Lines are 

counted excluding the heading 

on each page.) 















said to the 

said to be the 



delete the 

" struck down 

by Rama's 

dart " 

Add " struck 

down by Rama's 

dart " after 












see page 111 

see page 80 










line 5 







36 miles 
3 furlongs 

one yojana= 

36 miles 3